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Regan Paul, French, Trubi^er & Co., Ltd., 


Copyright 1909 


Open Court Publishing Co. 





By this edition of Collier's "Clavis Univer- 
salis" it is hoped to call attention to a book other- 
wise inaccessible, which, though curiously parallel 
to Berkeley's contemporary works, has undoubted 
independent value; and which anticipates Kant's 
first two antinomies. The whole history of phi- 
losophy perhaps presents no more striking example 
of undeserved neglect, and no more curious coin- 
cidence of thought than the eighteenth century in 
England. By entirely different modes of ap- 
proach and unknown to each other, Berkeley and 
Collier reached the same conclusion, — that mat- 
ter, as conceived by traditional philosophy, is non- 

This edition of the "Clavis Universalis" is an 
exact and verified copy of the essay as it appears 
in Dr. Parr's "Metaphysical Tracts of the 
Eighteenth Century," a book now out of print. 
The Introduction and Notes are modified extracts 
from a Master's thesis accepted by the faculty of 
Wellesley College. They aim to show the direct 
dependence of Collier upon Des Cartes, Male- 
branche, and Norris, as well as the parallelism of 
Collier and Berkeley. 

The thanks of the editor are due to Professor 


Mary Whiton Calkins who suggested and directed 
the work; to Dr. Benjamin Rand, of Harvard Uni- 
versity, who has given counsel at several points; 
and to Mr. James Van Allen Shields who consult- 
ed the British Museum copy of Taylor's transla- 
tion of Malebranche's "Recherche de la Verite." 



Introduction vii 

Clavis Universalis 

The Contents ------ 3 

The Introduction ----- ^ 

Part I ------- - 14 

Part II - - 55 

The Conclusion of the Whole - - 118 

Notes 133 

Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive 

in 2007 witii funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 



In the early eighteenth century, metaphysical 
speculation turned from the material world toward 
the inner life of man. Des Cartes and Male- 
branche in France, and Locke in England, had 
stripped the external world of its warmth and light 
and color and had left to it little save the character 
of extension. The completely idealistic theory of 
matter was formulated at nearly the same time, 
and in apparent independence, by George Berkeley 
and by Arthur Collier. And yet Berkeley alone 
commonly has credit for the metaphysical discov- 
ery, while Collier's little volume of scarce a 
hundred pages remained practically unnoticed for 
more than fifty years. 

The book seems to have attracted little or no 
attention even at the time of its publication. Had 
not Dr. Reid chanced upon it in the library at 
Glasgow, it might never have been known. Reid 
appreciated the value of the book, and in his ''Es- 
says on the Intellectual Powers of Man," published 
in 1785, gives it brief notice. After a discussion 
of Norris's "Essay toward the Theory of the Ideal 
or Intelligible World," he says that he ought not 
to omit mention of "an author of far inferior name, 
Arthur Collier. . . . His arguments are the same 


in substance with Berkeley's; and he appears," 
Rcid adds, "to understand the whole strength of his 
cause. Though he is not deficient in metaphysical 
acuteness, his style is disagreeable, being full of 
conceits, of new-coined words, scholastic terms, and 
perplexed sentences." Reid ends by saying, "I 
have taken the liberty to give this short account of 
Collier's book, because I believe it is rare and 
little known. I have only seen one copy of it, 
which is in the University library of Glasgow." ^ 
This notice attracted Dugald Stuart to the 
work, and in his "Dissertation: Ex:hibiting the 
Progress of Metaphysical, Ethical, and Political 
Philosophy" he compares Collier with Norris. 
"Another very acute metaphysician," he says, 
"has met with still greater injustice. His name 
is not to be found in any of our Biographical 
Dictionaries. In point of date, his publication is 
some years posterior to that of Norris, and there- 
fore it does not possess the same claims to original- 
ity; but it is far superior to it in logical closeness 
and precision, and is not obscured to the same de- 
gree with the mystical theology which Norris 
(after the example of Malebranche) connected 
with the scheme of Idealism. Indeed, when com- 
pared with the writings of Berkeley himself, it 

1 Thomas Reid, Essay II, p. 287 of his works, edited by Sir 
Win. Hamilton, 184$. 


yields to them less in force of argument, than in 
composition and variety of illustration." ^ 

These notices attracted the English philos- 
phers of this time to Collier's writings, and fur- 
ther traces of his life and works were sought. Sir 
James Mackintosh and Dr. Parr corresponded on 
the subject, ^ but their efforts met with no impor- 
tant success. But interest in Collier had been 
aroused; and when, some time before 1837, the 
History of Modern Wiltshire was published, the 
absence of his name from the history of the county, 
in which his family had held a living for four 
generations, called forth a remonstrance. This 
finally resulted in the publication of the only book 
which is a direct authority on Collier outside of 
his own few published writings. 

Robert Benson had inherited, with other docu- 
ments, all that remained of the Collier papers. 
Many of these papers had, to be sure, disappeared 
before Robert Benson looked into them, for they 
were, as Benson says, "so conveniently placed for 
the housemaid who lighted an adjoining bed-room 
fire, that it is not easy to guess how many of them 
have been consumed." '* The bulk of those that re- 
mained were the sermons of Arthur Collier and his 
brother William, and a few manuscript essays and 

2 Originally published in 1821. Collected Works of Dugald 
Stuart, edited by Sir Wm. Hamilton, 1854, p. 349. 

3 Robert Benson's "Memoirs of the Life and Writings of the Rev. 
Arthur Collier, M. A.," London, 1837, Preface p. IX. 

'♦ Benson's "Memoirs," Preface, page XIIL 


letters. The letters and essays which pertained to 
his metaphysical studies, as well as to the details 
of his life, were collected and published by Benson. 
The awakened interest in Collier evidenced 
itself at the same time in a second edition of the 
"Clavis." The copies numbered forty, and were 
"exclusively bestowed as presents." ' The third 
and last edition of the "Clavis Universalis," still 
accessible in the large libraries, was brought out 
in 1837 in a small volume prepared by Dr. Parr, 
entitled "Metaphysical Tracts of the Eighteenth 
Century." Dr. Parr had in his "remarkable libra- 
ry" rare metaphysical tracts of English authorship. 
Realizing their interest, he had thrown off a small 
impression of five of them, with an abridgment of 
the sixth. He intended to publish these, with an 
introduction which should include "an historical 
disquisition on Idealisnx, with special reference 
to the philosophy of Collier." But his death inter- 
rupted the work before it was completed. His 
library was sold, and the impression of the six tracts 
was purchased by a Mr. Lumley, a respectable 
London bookseller, ^ who was about to publish the 
"Memoirs of Arthur Collier" which Benson had 
prepared.^ This collection of tracts, in which the 

5 Benson's "Memoirs," Preface, page XIV. 

6 "Idealism ; with Reference to the Scheme of Arthur Collier" 
by Sir Wm. Hamilton (published originally in the Edinburgh Review 
in April, 1839), in "Discussions on Philosophy and Literature," London, 
1852, p. 187. 

7 Dr. Parr's "Collection of Metaphysical Tracts" Advertisement. 


"Clavis Universalis" holds first place, includes the 
only other work of Collier which was ever printed 
in full, "A Specimen of True Philosophy; in a 
Discourse on Genesis ;" and also an abstract of the 
Logology or "Treatise on the Logos." Through 
this collection, the "Clavis Universalis" is known 
to English speaking philosophers. 

In Germany, Collier met with recognition 
sooner than in his own country, through a full and 
able abstract of the "Clavis Universalis" made in 
the year 1717. This was published in the sixth 
supplemental volume of the "Acta Eruditorum," 
a Leipzig publication devoted to general interests. 
In concluding the article the reviewer says : "These 
are the paradoxes of our Author, which doubtless 
will be received with no more approbation than 
those, which to the same import, though with dif- 
ferent arguments, a contemporary of his, George 
Berkeley, attempted to defend in 'Three Dialogues 
between Hylas and Philonous.' " ^ Through this 
notice Collier became known to German philo- 
sophers, as is shown by the quotations from him 
made by Wolff and Bilfinger, and by the full 
translation which followed. But John Christ- 
opher Eschenbach, Professor of Philosophy in Ros- 
tock, was the first to make the full text of the 
"Clavis" available for German scholars; and Sir 
William Hamilton quotes him as saying, " If any 
book ever cost me trouble to obtain it the Clavis 

8 Translated from the original Latin. 


is that book." ' Eschenbach published this trans- 
lation, in 1756, as part of a work entitled "A Col- 
lection of the most distinguished Authors who 
deny the existence of their own bodies, and of 
the whole material world; containing the dia- 
logues of Berkeley, between Hylas and Philonous, 
and Collier's Universal Key translated, with Il- 
lustrative Observations, and an Appendix, wherein 
the Existence of Body is demonstrated, by John 
Christopher Eschenbach, Professor of Philosophy 
in Rostock." In this work, according to Hamil- 
ton, the "remarks are numerous and show much 
reading. The Appendix contains : — (i) An ex- 
position of the opinions of the Idealists, with its 
grounds and arguments. (2) A proof of the ex- 
ternal existence of body." ^° This translation is 
now itself rare and little known. 

Of Collier himself even less is known than of 
his writings, for the Wiltshire records and the 
papers found by Benson are the only sources. The 
family came from Bristol and settled in Wiltshire 
where, in 1608, one Joseph Collier was presented 
to the rectory of Langford Magna, commonly 
called Steeple Langford, near Sarum or Salisbury, 
and as he also owned the advowson, the benefice 
was handed down to his descendants. His son, 
Henry, who succeeded him, was ejected from his 

9 "Discussions on Philosophy and Literature," p. 190. 

10 Note S. 8., p. 584, Vol. I., "Collected works of Dugald Stuart," 
edited by Sir Wm. HamiltMi, 1854. 


parish during the Revolution and Protectorate, and 
he and his family suffered many hardships. After 
the Restoration, Henry Collier returned to Lang- 
ford Magna, and remained there until his death 
in 1672. His youngest son, Arthur, succeeded 
him; and to him and his wife Anne, daughter of 
Thomas and Joan Currey, of Misterton in Somer- 
setshire, was born Arthur Collier. Of his early 
youth and education we know little. He probably 
attended the grammar-school of Salisbury, after 
early studies at home. He entered Pembroke Col- 
lege, Oxford, in July, 1697, but, upon the entrance 
of his younger brother, William, to the Univer- 
sity, left Pembroke to be entered at Baliol with his 
brother on the twenty-second of October, 1698." 

Of his studies and of his interests during 
his college course, there is little indication. 
In his manuscripts "there is no trace of his hav- 
ing made any proficiency in mathematical studies, 
nor even that the mathematics formed a part of his 
education. [A] . . . letter ... in answer to a 
scriptural objection then often urged against the 
Copernican and Newtonian systems of the world, 
shews that he was not indifferent to the progress of 
natural philosophy." ^^ There are few indications 
of an interest in literature; but as he says in the 
opening page of the "Clavis" that he adopted his 
theory of the universe in 1703, a year before he took 

1^ Benson's "Memoirs," p. lo. 
12 Benson's "Memoirs," p. 126. 


up his residence at Langford Magna, his phil- 
osophical studies must have occupied much of his 
time and thought in college. With what systems 
he was familiar, one can judge only from the refer- 
ences in the "Clavis" and in the "Specimen of True 
Philosophy." He evidently knew Aristotle only 
through the Schoolmen, for his quotations are 
never made directly. Plato he quotes but once,*^ 
although Norris's "Theory of the Ideal World," 
well-known to Collier, is filled with Platonic refer- 
ences. But the scholasticism of the following cen- 
turies was a far stronger influence on Collier, inter- 
ested as he was in theological studies. His work 
shows the influence of scholastic principles and 
habits of thought; and to him, as to the Schoolmen, 
the interest of metaphysics lay in its relation to 
Scripture. St. Augustine, Porphyry, ApoUina- 
ris, Cassian, Vincentius, Lirinensis, Suarez are 
mentioned. Through the "books of Metaphysicks" 
of Scheibler and Baronius, according to Sir Wm. 
Hamilton,^'* he gained all his knowledge of the 
Metaphysic of the Schools. The original thinkers 
with whom he was directly familiar and whose 
works formed the starting point of his own were 
the French writers, Des Cartes and Malebranche, 
and his own English neighbor, John Norris. 

Six months after Arthur Collier had entered 

13 "Clavis Universalis," p. 42. (This reference, and all which 
follow are to this edition of the "Clavis"). 

14 Sir Wm. Hamilton's "Discussions on Philosophy and Litera- 
ture," p. 192. 


Pembroke College, his father died. During the 
seven years that intervened before the son could 
take upon himself the duties of the living, Francis 
Eyre held the benefice, vs^hich finally in 1704, 
passed to Arthur Collier, the fourth of his family 
to hold the office. The years that followed seem 
to have been uneventful. From the dates of his ser- 
mons one may argue that, until his death in 1732, he 
discharged the duties of his parish with regularity, 
and the allusions in his brother William's diary, 
give a hint of his daily life. This brother, who 
had been his college mate and close friend, was 
"rector of Baverstock, about two miles and a half 
to the south of Langford; and his Ms. remains 
form by far the greater portion of the Collier 
papers." ^^ The brothers evidently were much to- 
gether, and joined in the diversions of the neighbor- 
hood, attending the races and country dances and 
taking a hand at cards with their friends. Arthur, 
at least, seems to have been "intimate at the palace 
of Salisbury during Bishop Burnet's time; and we 
learn that he occasionally filled the cathedral pul- 
pit." ^^ There is no mention in either his brother's 
papers or his own of travels, or even prolonged 
absence from home ; so it is reasonable to conclude 
that his outward life was bounded by the limits of 
his parish. He was married to Margaret, daugh- 
ter of Nicholas Johnson, a paymaster of the army, 
and his wife, a sister of Stephen Fox. The parish 

15 Benson's "Memoirs," pp. 140 and 141. 


records give the birth of the eldest child as October 
13, 1707. Of his children little is known. Two 
sons and two daughters survived him; and one of 
the latter, Jane Collier, is known as the w^riter of 
a clever book called "The Art of Ingeniously Tor- 
menting." *^ Owing to financial difficulties during 
the latter part of his life, he finally sold the "rever- 
sion of Langford Rectory to Corpus Christi Col- 
lege, Oxford, for sixteen hundred guineas." 

That Collier had little care for the practical 
matters of everyday life can easily be believed, but 
his intense interest in matters ecclesiastical and 
theological is evidenced by his activity in church 
politics and by the close union of his philosophical 
and religious beliefs. His philosophical system 
was to be the "universal key" by which to unlock 
the secrets of the Scriptures. Yet his sermons have 
no suggestion of his theory.^'' Indeed, at this period, 
only his manuscript works and his letters contain 
his exposition of the idealistic theory which so ab- 
sorbed him. Among his papers there is an "outline 
of an essay, in three chapters, on the question of the 
visible world being without us or not," dated Janu- 
ary, 1708. Dated 171 2, are "two essays, still in 
manuscript, one on substance and accident, and the 
other termed 'Clavis Philosophica.' " ^^ In 1713, 
he published the "Clavis Universalis, or a new In- 

16 Benson's "Memoirs," p. 162. 

17 Benson's "Memoirs," p. 139. 

18 Benson's "Memoirs," p. 18. 


quiry after Truth, being a Demonstration of the 
Non-Existence, or Impossibility of an External 
World," which gives his perfected theory of the 
non-existence of matter. After this, a period of 
almost twenty years elapsed, with only his corres- 
pondence to show his interest in the application of 
his theory until in 1730, he published the "Speci- 
men of True Philosophy." This was followed in 
1732 by his "Logology," which is the last of his 
published writings. The monumental work of his 
life, the explication of the Scriptures, of which the 
"Genesis" and "Logology" were the beginnings, 
was never completed, for he died in the year in 
which the latter was printed. He was buried in 
the Langford Church, September 9th, 1732. 

But although Collier himself laid such stress 
upon the theological bearing of his theory, the 
treatises which discuss the interpretation of the 
Scriptures have little value when compared with 
the one philosophical essay, which seemed to him 
to serve mainly as an introduction to what was to 
follow. At most, the interest of these theological 
treatises lies in the more definite suggestions of the 
positive aspect of his philosophic thought. Disen- 
tangled from its scholastic phraseology, his system 
is a theistic spiritualism. It rests on two funda- 
mental propositions: (i) "God made heaven and 
earth, or the whole material world, 'Ev 'Apx^i^" and 
(2) "the visible or material world exists in mind, 
i. e., immediately in the mind of him that seeth or 


perceiveth it," ^' and has no existence independent 
of mind. The first of these propositions Collier 
accepts "as an unquestionable axiom," ^' inasmuch 
as it is the word of God. The second he has dem- 
onstrated in the "Clavis Universalis." But, 
though he has there proved that body must exist 
in mind, he has not, beyond bare suggestions, shown 
how this is possible. In the "Clavis," the quasi- 
externeity of visible objects is spoken of as the 
''effect of the will of God, — (as it is his will that 
light and colours should seem to be without the 
soul)."^° Also Collier speaks** of the "great 
mundane idea of created (or rather twice created) 
matter, by which all things are produced, or rather 
.... by which the great God gives sensations to 
all his thinking creatures." To the more careful 
study of the implications of the doctrine that "the 
material world exists in mind," Collier devotes the 
"Specimen of True Philosophy." In brief, he 
holds that matter is an accident or form of mind 
and has no existence apart from mind; that the 
sensible world of each individual exists by reason 
of his perceiving it, and has the relation of simili- 
tude, not of absolute identity, to that of every other 
individual ; and, finally, that these individual minds 
or spirits exist only in dependence on, and as far 
as they participate in, the one original substance, 
which is itself mind or spirit. 

19 Specimen of True Philosophy, p. 115 in the Parr edition. 

20 "Clavis Universalis," p. 9. ** Ibid., p. 12. 


Collier's claim to recognition lies, however, in 
the negative aspect of his teaching. Both he and 
Berkeley opposed the theory current in the philos- 
ophy of that time, that matter, though prac- 
tically unknown to us, has an existence of its own, 
and at least one property, extension, by which it 
arouses in us the idea of the sensible world. Berk- 
eley argues against the conception of matter as ''un- 
known support" which Locke upholds in his "Es- 
say on Human Understanding." Collier, on the 
other hand, aims to prove the non-existence of mat- 
ter as conceived by Des Cartes and Malebranche, 
and by their English disciple, John Norris. Upon 
the philosophy of Des Cartes, Malebranche had 
made one important advance. With Des Cartes, 
matter, though dependent upon the will of God, 
has an existence of its own in its property, exten- 
sion, by which it aflfects finite minds. Male- 
branche likewise grants to matter an existence out- 
side of its being in God; yet the material world 
plays no part in his system. In the fact that he 
does not discard this vague something, which he 
has practically proved to be nothing, lies his great 
inconsistency. His forward step is in the demon- 
stration that not even by the Cartesian "unknown 
motion of unknown parts" can body become known 
to a finite mind; that this knowledge is only pos- 
sible if both knower and known are taken up and 
united in one spiritual substance. In criticism, 
Collier points out that Malebranche himself claims 


that the external world cannot be an object of sense 
since the idea which we perceive must be intimate- 
ly united to the mind and hence cannot be of a dif- 
ferent nature.^^ But whereas Malebranche still 
clings to this vague unknown something as cause 
of sensible ideas, Collier claims that the very exist- 
ence of body lies in its being perceived. 

But despite its close dependence upon the the- 
ories of Des Cartes and Malebranche, the "Clavis" 
refers much more closely to the system of Norris. 
John Norris, rector of Bemerton, near Sarum, had 
apparently received much the same philosophical 
education as Collier, that is, he had a knowledge 
of the early Greeks through the Schoolmen, and a 
familiarity with the modern French philosophers. 
His "Theory of the Ideal or Intelligible World," 
is designed to complete the system of Malebranche, 
who, as Norris thought, had not carried sufficiently 
far his theory that "all things are seen in God." 
To quote his own words, "Mr. Malebranche has 
ventured the farthest of any that I know of upon 
this Discovery [into the Ideal World.] . . . But 
even this great Apelles has drawn the Celestial 
Beauty but halfway." ^^ Although Norris in real- 
ity only enlarges upon Malebranche's doctrines in- 
stead of pressing this "Discovery" to its logical con- 
clusion, his book is valuable to students of idealistic 

21 "Recherche de la Verite," Livre 3"ie^ 2nde Partie, Chap. I. 

^2 An Essay towards the Theory of the Ideal or Intelligible 
World," by John Norris, Rector of Bemerton, London, 1701-1704, Part 
I, p. \. 


thought. According both to Malebranche and to 
Norris, reality is of two kinds, spiritual and ma- 
terial; and God, the supreme spirit, contains both 
the intelligible world of Ideas and the finite spirits, 
who are thus in direct communion with him. 
Since these two are, both alike, in him and of his 
substance, the divine ideas are directly intelligible 
to finite minds without proof or intervention. 
These divine ideas are the representative forms of 
material bodies in a natural world, which is some- 
how caused by God, and inadequately represents 
him, but is yet outside and apart from him. The 
existence of this material world Norris practically 
disproves, though he still clings to its reality on the 
foundation of faith. Sir Wm. Hamilton remarks 
that Malebranche as a Catholic was "obliged to 
burden" his theory with the incumbrance of matter, 
but that to Norris as a Protestant, little credit is 
due for not rejecting this material world. It re- 
mained for Collier and Berkeley to give up the ma- 
terial world altogether as a sacrifice to the received 
philosophy of ideas.^^ 

The fact that these two men, Collier and Berk- 
eley, came to the same conclusion at precisely the 
same time, seems to many critics a coincidence too 
curious to be accidental ; and the reputation of 
Berkeley, compared with the neglect of Collier, 
seems hardly due to chance alone. Yet the facts 

23 Sir Wm. Hamilton in "Discussions on Philosophy and Litera- 
ture," pp. 199 ff. 


of the case as we know them point to the indepen- 
dence of Collier's thought. In point of time, the 
promulgation of these doctrines is almost identical. 
In 1709, George Berkeley published his "Essay 
toward a New Theory of Vision," which contained 
suggestions of his metaphysical theory. For the 
purpose of his arguments he grants, in this work, 
the external existence of tangible matter, but he 
teaches, by implication, that visible matter exists 
only in the mind of him who sees it. In 1710, 
Berkeley published the "Principles of Human 
Knowledge," which contains the exposition of 
his doctrine in detailed form. This was followed, 
in 1713, by the "Three Dialogues between Hylas 
and Philonous," intended, as Berkeley says, "to in- 
troduce the notions I advance into the mind in the 
most easy and familiar manner." In this same 
year, 1713, appeared Collier's little volume, the 
"Clavis Universalis." The facts that Berkeley's 
first suggestion of his theory was published four 
years before Collier's theory was advanced, and 
that his finished arguments were made public three 
years before Collier's, seem at first glance to settle 
in the negative the question of Collier's indepen- 
dence. But two further considerations make the 
conclusion doubtful. In the first place, we know 
by Collier's own word ^^ that he had adopted his 
own theory ten years before he put it into outward 
form, which brings the date of its conception not 

24 "Clavis Universalis," p. 5. 


later than 1703. Berkeley gives no direct date of 
the birth of his theories, but it can be supplied ap- 
proximately from his "Commonplace Book." In 
this book, according to Fraser, he "seems to have 
set down . . . stray thoughts which occurred to 
him in the course of his mathematical and meta- 
physical studies at Trinity College, Dublin. 
These common-places seem to have been formed 
gradually, apparently in 1705 and some following 
years. . . . Considerable portions imply that he 
was at the time maturing his thoughts with a view 
to the publication of the Essay on Vision and the 
Principles of Human Knowledge] but the form 
which the projected work (or works) was to take 
does not appear to have been finally settled in his 
mind." ^^ It is not possible to compare definite 
dates here. We can only say that in 1703 Collier 
was convinced of his theory, and that in 1705 Berk- 
eley was testing his doctrine by applying it to all 
branches of knowledge. If these dates bear any 
weight, we may conclude that the two men, while 
they were both under the age of twenty-five and 
while they were still continuing their college stud- 
ies, independently conceived this new theory of 
matter. From the references in the letters written 
in the few years following the publication of the 
"Clavis," it is evident that in the meantime Collier 
had become acquainted with some one book of 
Berkeley; and the further reference in the "Speci- 

25 Note I by Fraser on p. 419 of the "Collected Works," Vol. IV. 


men of True Philosophy" identifies this book with 
the "Dialogues." '' 

Whatever one's conclusion about the relation 
between Collier and Berkeley, there can be no 
doubt that Collier's "third" and "fourth" argu- 
ments anticipate Kant's first and second antino- 
mies. Just as Kant argues that "the world is not a 
whole existing in itself" from the fact that it can 
be proved to be both finite and infinite in time and 
in space, so Collier argues that "an external world 
.... must be both finite and infinite," and that 
"that which is both finite and infinite in extent is 
absolutely non-existent."^^ And as Kant argues 
that material substances are "nothing outside our 
representations" from the fact that they can be 
shown to be both infinitely divisible and ultimately 
indivisible, so Collier affirms "in like manner as be- 
fore, that external matter is both finitely and in- 
finitely divisible, and, consequently, that there is 
no such thing as external matter." ^* 

It must be granted that the "Clavis Univer- 
salis" is more than a "metaphysical curiosity." 

26 As Leslie Stephen points out, in his article on Collier in the 
Dictionary of National Biography, this reference (on p. 114 of the 
"Specimen of True Philosophy" as given in the Parr edition) is the 
only one in Collier's published writings. Stephen credits Collier with 
entire independence in the conception of the theory. 

27 "Clavis Universalis," p. 63. 

28 Since this introduction was written, in its first form, the com- 
parison has been made in more detail by Professor Arthur O. Lovejoy 
in a paper on "Kant and the English Platonists" in "Essays Philosoph- 
ical and Psychological in honor of William James" by "His Colleagues 
at Columbia University." Longmans, Green & Co., 1908. 


Although the greater length and detail of Berk- 
eley's arguments, combined with his grace of liter- 
ary style, make his works more desirable for the 
general introduction to idealism, Collier's book is 
of real value to the student in connection with the 
study of Berkeley. The "Clavis" gives in conclu- 
sive form Berkeley's chief arguments. It adds, 
moreover, two of the arguments which Kant later 
made famous. More than this, the two systems 
together show how an idealistic theory of the uni- 
verse was an inevitable result of the thought of the 
early eighteenth century. 


OR, A 

New Inquiry after Truth. 




Non-Existence, or Impossibility, 




Vulgi Assensus & Approbatio circa Materiam 
Difficilem est cerium Argumentum Falsitatis istius 
Opinionis cut Assentttur. 

Mr. Maleb. De Inquir. Verit. Lib. iii. P. 194. 


Printed for ROBERT GOSLING, at the Mitre and 

Crown againft St. Dunftan's Church 

in Fleet-ftreet. 1713. 



Wherein the question in general is explained 
and stated, and the whole subject divided 
into two particular heads - - - 5 

Part I. 

Chap. I. Wherein the first question is con- 
sidered, viz.. Whether the visible world 
is external or not ------ 14 

Sect. I. That the seeming Externeity of a 
visible object, is no argument of its real 
externeity 16 

Sect. II. That a visible object, as such, is not 

external -------- 2g 

Chap. II. Objections answered - - - 43 


Part II. 

That there is no external world, and that an 
external world is a being utterly impos- 

stole - 

- 55 

Chap. I. 

Argument I. - - ■ 

- 55 

Chap. II. 

Argument II. - 

- 59 

Chap. III. 

Argument III. 

- 63 

Chap. IV. 

Argument IV. 

- 68 

Chap. V. 

Argument V. - - - 

- 78 

Chap. VI. 

Argument VI. 

- 83 

Chap. VII. 

Argument VII. 

- 87 

Chap. VIII. 

Argument VIII. - 

- 93 

Chap. IX. 

Argument IX. 

- 95 

Chap. X. 

Objections answered 

- lOI 

The conclusion of the whole. 

Of the use and consequences of the foregoing 

treatise n8 


Wherein the Question in general is explained and 

stated, and the whole subject divided into 

two particular heads. 

Though I am verily persuaded, that in the 
whole course of the following treatise, I shall or 
can have no other adversary, but prejudice; yet, 
having by me no mechanical engine proper to re- 
move it; nor, being able to invent any other method 
of attacking it, besides that of fair reason and argu- 
ment; rather than the world should finish its course 
without once offering to enquire in what manner 
it exists, (and for one reason more, which I need 
not name, unless the end desired were more hope- 
ful;) I am at last, after a ten years pause and de- 
liberation, content to put myself upon the trial of 
the common reader, without pretending to any bet- 
ter art of gaining him on my side, than that of dry 
reason and metaphysical demonstration. 

The question I am concerned about is in gen- 
eral this, whether there be any such thing as an ex- 
ternal world. And my title will suffice to inform 
my reader, that the negative of this question is the 
point I am to demonstrate. 

In order to which, let us first explain the 


terms. Accordingly, by worlds I mean whatso- 
ever is usually understood by the terms, body, ex- 
tension, space, matter, quantity, &c. if there be any 
other word in our english tongue, which is synon- 
imous with all or any of these terms. And now 
nothing remains but the explication of the word 

By this, in general, I understand the same as 
is usually understood by the words, absolute, self- 
existent, independent, &c. and this is what I deny 
of all matter, body, extension, &c. 

If this, you will say, be all that I mean by the 
word external, I am like to meet with no adversary 
at all, for who has ever affirmed, that matter is self- 
existent, absolute or independent? 

To this I answer, what others hold, or have 
held in times past, I shall not here inquire. On the 
contrary, I should be glad to find by the event, that 
all mankind were agreed in that which I contend 
for as the truth, viz. that matter is not, cannot be 
independent, absolute, or self-existent. In the 
mean time, whether they are so or no, will be tried 
by this. 

Secondly, and more particularly, that by not 
independent, not absolutely existent, not external, 
I mean and contend for nothing less, than that all 
matter, body, extension, &c. exists in, or in depend- 
ence on mind, thought, or perception, and that it 
is not capable of an existence, which is not thus 


This perhaps may awaken another to demand 
of me how? to which I as readily answer, just how 
my reader pleases, provided it be somehow. As 
for instance, we usually say, an accident exists in, 
or in dependence on, its proper subject; and that its 
very essence, or reality of its existence, is so to exist. 
Will this pass for an explication of my assertion? 
if so, I am content to stand by it, in this sense of 
the words. Again, we usually say, (and fancy too 
we know what we mean in saying,) that a body ex- 
ists in, and also in dependance on, its proper place, 
so as to exist necessarily in some place or other. 
Will this description of dependance please my in- 
quisitive reader? If so, I am content to join issue 
with him, and contend that all matter exists in, or as 
much dependantly on, mind, thought, or percep- 
tion, to the full, as any body exists in place. Nay, I 
hold the description to be so just and apposite, as 
if a man should say, a thing is like itself : for I sup- 
pose I need not tell my reader, that when I affirm 
that all matter exists in mind, after the same man- 
ner as body exists in place, I mean the very same 
as if I had said, that mind itself is the place of 
body, and so its place, as that it is not capable of 
existing in any other place, or in place after any 
other manner. Again, lastly, it is a common say- 
ing, that an object of perception exists in, or in de- 
pendance on, its respective faculty. And of these 
objects, there are many who will reckon with me, 
light, sounds, colours, and even some material 


things, such as trees, houses, &c. which are seen, 
as we say, in a looking-glass, but which are, or 
ought to be owned to have no existence but in, or 
respectively on, the minds or faculties of those who 
perceive them. But to please all parties at once, 
I affirm that I know of no manner, in which an 
object of perception exists in, or on, its respective 
faculty, which I will not admit in this place, to be 
a just description of that manner of in-existence, 
after which all matter that exists, is affirmed by me 
to exist in mind. Nevertheless, were I to speak 
my mind freely, I should chuse to compare it to 
the in-existence of some, rather than some other 
objects of perception, particularly such as are ob- 
jects of the sense of vision ; and of these, those more 
especially, which are allowed by others, to exist 
wholly in the mind or visive faculty; such as ob- 
jects seen in a looking glass, by men distempered, 
light-headed, ecstatic, &c. where not only colours, 
but intire bodies, are perceived or seen. For these 
cases are exactly parallel, with that existence which 
I affirm of all matter, body, or extension whatso- 

Having endeavoured, in as distinct terms as 
I can, to give my reader notice of what I mean by 
the proposition I have undertaken the defence of, 
it will be requisite in the next place, to declare in 
as plain terms, what I do not mean by it. 

Accordingly, I declare in the first place, that 
in affirming that there is no external world, I make 


no doubt or question of the existence of bodies, or 
whether the bodies which are seen exist or not. It 
is with me a first principle, that whatsoever is 
seen, is. To deny, or doubt of this, is errant scepti- 
cism, and at once unqualifies a man for any part 
or office of a disputant, or philosopher; so that it 
will be remembered from this time, that my en- 
quiry is not concerning the existence, but altogether 
concerning the extra-existence of certain things or 
objects; or, in other words, what I affirm and con- 
tend for, is not that bodies do not exist, or that the 
external world does not exist, but that such and 
such bodies, which are supposed to exist, do not 
exist externally; or in universal terms, that there 
is no such thing as an external world. 

Secondly, I profess and declare, that notwith- 
standing this my assertion, I am persuaded that I 
see all bodies just as other folks do; that is, the vis- 
ible world is seen by me, or, which is the same, 
seems to me to be as much external or independant, 
as to its existence, on my mind, self, or visive fac- 
ulty, as any visible object does, or can be pretended 
to do or be, to any other person. I have neither, 
as I know of, another nature, nor another knack 
of seeing objects, different from other persons, suit- 
able to the hypothesis of their existence which I 
here contend for. So far from this, that I believe, 
and am very sure, that this seeming, or (as I shall 
desire leave to call it) quasi externeity of visible ob- 
jects, is not only the effect of the will of God, ^ (as it 


is his will that light and colours should seem to be 
without the soul, that heat should seem to be in the 
fire, pain in the hand, &c.) but also that it is a 
natural and necessary condition of their visibility; 
I would say, that though God should be supposed 
to make a world, or any one visible object, which 
is granted to be not external, yet by the condition 
of its being seen, it would, and must be quasi exter- 
nal to the perceptive faculty; as much so to the 
full, as is any material object usually seen in this 
visible world. 

Moreover, thirdly, when I affirm that all mat- 
ter exists dependantly on mind, I am sure my 
reader will allow me to say, I do not mean by this, 
that matter or bodies exist in bodies. As for in- 
stance, when I affirm or say, that the world, which 
I see exists in my mind, I cannot be supposed to 
mean that one body exists in another, or that all 
the bodies which I see exist in that, which common 
use has taught me to call my body. I must needs 
desire to have this remembered, because experience 
has taught me how apt persons are, or will be, to 
mistake me in this particular. ^ 

Fourthly, when I affirm that this or that visi- 
ble object exists in, or dependantly on, my mind, or 
perceptive faculty, I must desire to be understood 
to mean no more than I say, by the words mind and 
perceptive faculty. In like manner I would be 
understood, when I affirm in general, that all mat- 
ter or body exists in, or dependantly on, mind. I 


say this to acquit myself from the imputation of 
holding, that the mind causes its own ideas, or 
objects of perception ; or, lest any one by a mistake 
should fancy that I affirm, that matter depends for 
its existence on the will of man, or any creature 
whatsoever. '* But now, if any such mistake should 
arise in another's mind, he has wherewith to rectify 
it; in as much as I assure him, that by mind, I 
mean that part, or act, or faculty of the soul, which 
is distinguished by the name intellective, or percep- 
tive, as in exclusion of that other part which is dis- 
tinguished by the term will. 

Fifthly, when I affirm that all matter exists in 
mind, or that no matter is external, I do not mean 
that the world, or any visible object of it, which I 
(for instance) see, is dependant on the mind of any 
other person besides myself; or that the world, or 
matter, which any other person sees, is dependant 
on mine, or any other person's mind, or faculty of 
perception. On the contrary, I contend as well as 
grant, that the world which John sees is external to 
Peter, and the world which Peter sees is external to 
John. That is, I hold the thing to be the same in 
this, as in any other case of sensation ; for instance, 
that of sound. Here two or more persons, who are 
present at a concert of music, may indeed in some 
sense be said to hear the same notes or melody; but 
yet the truth is, that the sound which one hears, is 
not the very same with the sound which another 
hears, because the souls or persons are supposed to 


be different; and therefore, the sound which Peter 
hears, is external to, or independant on the soul of 
John, and that which John hears, is external to the 
soul or person of Peter. ^ 

Lastly, when I affirm that no matter is alto- 
gether external, but necessarily exists in some mind 
or other, exemplified and distinguished by the 
proper names of John, Peter, &c. I have no de- 
sign to affirm, that every part or particle of matter, 
which does or can exist, must needs exist in some 
created mind or other. On the contrary, I believe 
that infinite worlds might exist, though not one 
single created, (or rather merely created,) mind 
were ever in being. And as in fact there are thou- 
sands and ten thousands, I believe, and I even con- 
tend, that there is an universe, or material world in 
being, which is, at least, numerically different from 
every material world perceived by mere creatures. 
By this, I mean the great mundane idea of created 
(or rather twice created) matter, by which all 
things are produced; or rather, (as my present sub- 
ject leads me to speak,) by which the great God 
gives sensations to all his thinking creatures, and 
by which things that are not, are preserved, and 
ordered in the same manner as if they were. 

And now I presume and hope, that my mean- 
ing is sufficiently understood, when I affirm, that 
all matter which exists, exists in, or dependantly on, 
mind; or, that there is no such thing as an external 


Nevertheless, after all the simplicity to which 
this question seems already to be reduced, I find 
myself necessitated to divide it into two. For, in 
order to prove that there is no external world, it 
must needs be one article to shew that the visible 
world is not external, and when this is done, though 
in this all be indeed done, which relates to any 
opinion yet maintained by men, yet something still 
is wanting towards a full demonstration of the 
point at large, and to come up to the universal 
terms, in which the question is expressed. 

Accordingly, I shall proceed in this order. 
First to shew, that the visible world is not external. 
Secondly, to demonstrate more at large, or simply, 
that an external world is a being utterly impossible. 
Which two shall be the subjects of two distinct 
parts or books. ^ 



Wherein the first question is considered, viz. 
Whether the visible World is external or not. 
First, then, I affirm that the visible world is 
not external. By the visible world, I mean every 
material object, which is, or has been, or can be 
seen. I say can be seen, (which is the import of 
the word visible,) in order to comprehend what- 
ever worlds there are, or may be conceived to be, 
(besides that which we see who live on this earth,) 
whether planetary, celestial, or supercelestial 
worlds. Be they what, or how many they will, 
supposing they are visible, that is, actually seen by 
some particular souls or other, they are all under- 
stood and comprehended within the notion of the 
visible world: for my subject leads me to affirm, 
that a visible world, as visible, is not external. Some 
perhaps will be apt to prevent my inquiry, by urg- 
ing that it is not capable of being a question, wheth- 
er the visible world be external or not; it being 
self-evident, that a visible object, as visible or seen, 
is and must be external ; that an object's being seen 
as external, is a simple and direct proof of its 
being really external ; and consequently that there 
is no foundation for the distinction between the 


quasi and real externeity of a visible object, which 
I laid down in my introduction. 

I answer, then indeed I am blown up at once, 
if there be any truth or consequence in the objec- 
tion. But the best of it is, that I had never any 
design to palm this distinction upon my reader 
gratis, foreseeing it might stick with him. Never- 
theless, he must allow me the common benefit of 
words, whereby to explain my meaning; and this 
was all the liberty I presumed upon, in premising 
that distinction. Whether the seeming externeity 
of a visible object, be indeed an argument of its 
real externeity, I leave to be proved by all those 
who will affirm it. However, it cannot be denied, 
but that it is capable of being a question. For 
though the truth, (or fact) be against me, yet visi- 
ble objects seem to be external; and herein we all 
agree ; so that one member of the distinction is al- 
lowed by all to be good. If so, what should hinder 
it from being a fair question, whether this seeming 
be an argument of its real externeity? For my own 
part, I am far from taking it for granted, that this 
distinction is good, or built upon real facts, (though 
every one must allow the distinction to be good in 
general between real and apparent,) for this would 
be to take a main part of the last question for 
granted. But then, on the other hand, it cannot 
be expected that I should admit an adversary to 
take it for granted, that this distinction (with re- 
gard to visible objects) is not good; in other words, 


that there is no difference in the thing, between 
seeming and real externetty, or between visible and 
external. For this would be to grant away at once 
the whole matter I am concerned for. If there- 
fore another would have me grant or allow this, 
let him fairly set himself to shew, wherein lies the 
connection between these two different terms, or 
prove what is affirmed in the objection, namely, 
that a visible object, as visible or seen, is and must 
be external. Here, the least thing to be expected 
is, that he point or single out one visible object, 
which is allowed, or may be plainly proved to be 
external. In the mean time, or till something of 
this kind be attempted by another, all must allow 
me the liberty of doubting, whether there be any 
such connection or not; at least bear with me, 
whilst I am content to prove that there is no such 

Let this then be the first step by which I rise 
to my last conclusion; namely, to shew, that the 
seeming externeity of a visible object, is no argu- 
ment of its real externeity. Or, in other words, that 
a visible object may exist in, or dependantly on, the 
mind of him that seeth it, notwithstanding that it 
is seen, and is allowed to seem to be external to, or 
independant on it. 


That the seeming externeity of a visible object, is 
no argument of its real externeity. ' 
To s'how this, I think the best way will be by 


instances, or an induction of particular objects, 
which, though they seem as much to be external, 
as any objects whatsoever, yet are, or must needs 
be granted, to be not external. * These, to speak as 
orderly as I can, shall be divided into two sorts, 
possibles and actuals. 

By actuals are meant certain instances of per- 
ception, which are ordinary and usual, or which, 
at least, have been in fact. And by possibles are 
meant certain instances of perception, which have 
never indeed been fact, but which need nothing 
but an increase of power, to make them so at any 
time. And, 

First, for the last of these, viz. of possible 
instances of perception; where the object perceived 
is allowed to be not external, though it appears 
to be as much so as any objects whatsoever. ' Of 
this sort I shall mention two, and that according 
to their degrees of actuality. And, 

First, for that which is the least actual of the 
two, which shall be an instance of a man's perceiv- 
ing a creature, which has not so much as in its 
kind, existed externally; (supposing here for the 
present that some things have so existed;) I mean, 
one of those they usually call chimaera's. Of these 
there are distinctions and names, of which one is 

A centaur, is an ens or being, partly horse, 
and partly man : a mere fiction of poets or painters ; 
that is, a creature which has never existed, or been 


seen, any otherwise than in imagination. But in 
imagination it has, or is supposed to have been 
seen, and as such it has existed, and does or may 
continually exist. 

Well now, let some particular person be sup- 
posed, in whose mind or imagination, a centaur 
does, this instant exist; and let his name be called 
Apelles. Apelles then perceives a centaur, and 
that vividly or distinctly enough to draw the pic- 
ture of it, or describe its shape and proportions 
with his pencil. 

These things supposed, I demand how does 
this centaur seem to Apelles? Either as within or 
without him, whilst he fixes the eye of his mind 
upon it, so as to describe it? For an answer to this 
question, I appeal to every person living, whether 
an object of imagination does not seem or appear 
to be as much external to the mind, which sees it, 
as any object whatsoever; that is as any of those 
which are called objects of vision. If so, I might 
here observe, that we have already one instance ot 
an object perceived, which, as perceived, is seen as 
without, yet is indeed not so, but altogether existent 
in, or dependant on, the mind that perceives it. 
But I am content to suppose that it will be urged 
to me, that this is not an instance to the intended 
purpose, which was not concerning imagination, 
but sense, and particularly that of vision. Well, 
I submit to the charge of fact, lest I should seem 
too rigorous, and so overstrain my point: but then 


my reader will agree with me in the conclusion I 
contend for, if from this very instance I shew him 
a like possible case of vision, wherein the object 
perceived is not external. 

In speaking of possibles, allowed to be such, 
I have all power at my command, or the liberty 
of supposing the power of God himself to produce 
effects for me. Suppose then an almighty power 
ready at hand to produce this imagined centaur 
into an object of vision ; what is to be done in this 
case, or to this end? Must an external centaur be 
created that Apelles may see it? Perhaps so, but 
is there no easier or shorter way than this for Ap- 
elles to see a centaur? Nay, but he is supposed 
already to see a centaur, only that we do not use 
to call it seeing, but imagining, because of the 
faint and languid manner after which he seeth it. 
But if this be all the difference between what we 
use to call seeing and imagining, they may easily 
coincide, without any considerable difference in 
the object perceived, or in any thing else with 
which we are at present concerned. For what is 
that which is perceived or seen, when an object 
visible is before our eyes? Why nothing that I 
can think of but figure and colour? Well, Apelles 
imagines or perceives a centaur; he perceives then 
a certain figure which we call a centaur; he per- 
ceives it indeed in a certain languid manner, or 
not so vividly as some objects are perceived, which 
greater vividness we use to call colour, but still 


he is supposed to perceive a centaur. If so, add 
colour of this perception, and the centaur which 
was before only imagined, is now become a seen 
or visible object, and yet still, as being the same 
figure or extension, is as much in his mind, or as 
little external, as it was before. 

Perhaps my reader will not be content to 
grant me, that the difference between imagination 
and vision is only that of more and less, or, that 
an object in one is perceived with or with such a 
degree of colour, and in the other, either with fig- 
ure only, or with a much less degree of colour.^" 
Perhaps so; but he will doubtless grant this, that 
whilst Apelles imagines a centaur, God may so 
act upon his mind, as that by degrees he shall per- 
ceive it more and more distinctly or vividly, till 
he comes to perceive it to the full as vividly as any 
object is or can be perceived or seen. If so, I leave 
it with them to distinguish imagination from vis- 
ion any otherwise than I have done, who allow not 
my manner of doing it; and in the meantime must 
demand of them one mark or sign whereby to dis- 
tinguish the centaur thus vividly perceived, or 
supposed to be perceived, from an object which 
they would call truly visible, or seen. 

The other instance which I promised to give 
is indeed much like the former, only that the ob- 
ject perceived, (or one like it,) is here supposed to 
exist amongst the ordinary objects of the visible 
world ; and it is this. 


When a man with his eyes shut, or at noon- 
day, has a mind to think on the moon at full, it is 
certain he may think on it. This moon, as being 
truly perceived, truly exists: it exists also in the 
mind of him that seeth it, and that so really and 
entirely, that, though every external object were 
supposed to be annihilated, or not one besides my- 
self had ever been created, yet still I might see or 
imagine a moon. 

Well now, suppose as before, that whilst I 
thus imagine a moon, God should so act upon my 
mind by insensible degrees, or otherwise, as to 
make this imagined moon appear brighter and 
brighter to me, till it comes to be to the full as 
vivid as the moon supposed to be in the heavens, 
or as any moon whatsoever. In this case, I say, 
we have an instance of a visible or seen object, 
^^hich, to appearance, is as much external as any 
object whatsoever, but is not indeed external: 
which therefore is a demonstration that the visible 
externeity of an object is no argument for any real 
externeity of it. 

II. And now from possible I come to actual 
cases, or instances of the same thing. And here, 

I. The first shall be of certain other sensa- 
tions, or modes of sensible perception, wherein the 
objects perceived exist only in the mind, though 
they seem to exist externally to, or independant on, 
it; such as sounds, smells, tastes, heat, pain, pleas- 
ure, &c. 


If any one doubts whether these things be 
within or without the souls or perceptive faculties 
of those who sense them, they must excuse me if I 
am unwilling to digress so far as to undertake the 
proof of what I here suppose; and that partly on 
the account of its evidence ; but I am content to say 
chiefly, because the thing has been already done 
often to my hands, particularly by Mr. Des Cartes, 
Mr. Maleb ranch, and Mr. Norris, in several parts 
of their much celebrated writings, whither I chuse 
to refer my inquisitive reader." 

Supposing then that these objects of sense ex- 
ist truly and really in their respective faculties, I 
am sure no one will doubt whether they do not 
seem to exist altogether without them. For this I 
appeal to every one's experience, and to the dif- 
ficulty which so many find in believing, that they 
do not indeed exist without them. If so, we have 
then several instances together of certain objects 
of sense, which, notwithstanding that they seem as 
much external as any objects whatsoever, yet really 
and truly are not external. 

"Moreover, there is of this sort a particular 
instance often mentioned by philosophers,^^ which 
is very home to this purpose ; and that is, of a man's 
feeling pain in a member which he has lost. This 
is usually said to depend on certain motions made 
by certain humours or animal spirits on the nerves 
or fibres of the remaining part; but of this I make 
no other use or account at present, than only to col- 


lect from hence, that the efifect would still be the 
same though the absent member were as well an- 
nihilated as lost. If so, I ask, where is this member 
which the man is sensible of? Where, I say, is, 
or can it be, but in the mind or soul of him that 
feels it?"" 

2. The next instance shall be of light and 
colours, which are allowed to be objects properly 
visible. These appear or seem as much at a dis- 
tance or external as any objects whatsoever, yet 
scarce any thing is more evident than that they are 
not so. 

In this I speak more particularly to Cartes- 
ians ; and on this occasion I desire to ask them, how 
has it come to pass, that they, who all agree that 
light and colours are not external, should yet hap- 
pen to overlook the same conclusion, with relation 
to the bodies, subjects, or extensions, which sus- 
tain these accidents?^"* For can any thing be more 
true or proper than to say, such a body is luminous, 
or, of this or that colour? Or more evident than 
that light and colour exist in, or are accidents of 
matter? And shall we say that the subjects exist 
without, and the accidents within the soul? Even 
those very accidents whose totum esse is inesse in 
their particular or respective subjects? ^^ But to 
return: as for those who are not yet content so 
much as to grant that light and colours exist in 
the soul, I must refer them, as before, for their sat- 
isfaction in this point. In the mean time this will 


doubtless be admitted by all sides or parties, that 
if light and colours are not external, I have given 
them an instance of some visible objects, which are 
very apparently, but yet are not really external, 
which is all the labour I shall be at in this partic- 

3. My next instance shall be of those who on 
some occasions see many objects which no other 
persons see, and which are unanimously granted 
to have no existence, but in the minds or faculties 
of those who see them. Such are those who see 
men walking the streets with halters about their 
necks, or with knives sticking in their bodies. Such 
are those who see themselves or others in the fig- 
ures of cocks, bulls, or wolves, or with the equipage 
of sovereign princes. And such, lastly, are those 
who see and converse with several persons, see 
houses, trees, &c. which no other person seeth, or 
perhaps hath ever seen. 

These, you will say, are mad or light-headed. 
Be it so, that they are mad, or drunk, or whatsoever 
else you will, yet, unless we will be like them we 
must needs grant the fact, viz. that they really 
see the things or objects they pretend to see. They 
see them also as external or without them; and yet 
we all grant, and even contend, that they are not 
without them, which is as much as I am here con- 
cerned for.^^ 

4. Another instance of vision, which infers 
the same conclusion, is of persons whose minds or 


perceptive faculties are acted in an extraordinary 
manner by the spirit of God: such was Ezekiel, 
such was St. John, the author, to us, of the Apoca- 
lypse, and such have been many others : these were 
neither mad nor light-headed, and yet they tell us 
of strange things which they have seen as evidently, 
and as externally to appearance, as any objects 
whatsoever; but yet such things as never really ex- 
isted without the minds, or perceptive faculties of 
those who are supposed to have seen them. 

5. Another instance of vision which infers 
the same conclusion, shall be one of which every 
person may have the experience. Let a man, whilst 
he looks upon any object, as suppose the moon, 
press or distort one of his eyes with his finger; this 
done, he will perceive or see two moons, at some 
distance from each other; one, as it were, proceed- 
ing or slid'ng off from the other. 

Now both of these moons are equally external, 
or seen by us as external; and yet one at least of 
these is not external, there being but one moon sup- 
posed to be in the heavens, or without us. There- 
fore an object is seen by us as external, which is 
not indeed external, which is again the thing to be 
shewn. ^^ 

6. The last instance which I shall mention 
to this purpose, shall be one likewise of which we 
have every day's experience, but yet is little ob- 
served; and that is, the usual act of seeing objects 
in a looking-glass. 


Here I see sun, moon, and stars, even a whole 
expanded world, as distinctly, as externally, as 
any material objects are capable of being seen. 

Now the question (if it can be any question) 
is. Where are these things? Do they exist within 
or without my soul, or perceptive faculty? If it 
is said that they exist without, I must still ask 
where? Are they numerically the same with that 
sun, &c. which I see without a glass, and are here, 
for a time, supposed to be external? This cannot 
be, for several reasons: as first, I see them both 
together; that is, I as evidently see two distinct 
objects (suppose suns) as ever I saw two houses, 
trees, &c. that is, I have the same simple evidence 
of sense for their being two distinct suns, as I have, 
or can have, that one object is not two, or two one, 
or that one is not ten thousand. Secondly, I can, 
and have often seen one of these suns, viz. either 
of them singly, without seeing the other. Again, 
thirdly, instead of two, I have sometimes seen at 
least twenty or thirty suns, all equally seen, equally 
seen as external. Moreover, fourthly, we often 
see the object in the glass very different from that 
which is like it, and goes by the same name, with- 
out the glass. As for instance, one shall be in mo- 
tion, whilst the other is at rest; one shall be of one 
colour, nay also, figure and magnitude, and the 
other shall be of another; to which may be added, 
many other particular differences of which every 
one's experience will prove a sufficient testimony. 


If then an object seen as in a glass, be not the 
same with any seen without a. glass; and if it be 
still affirmed that it exists without the soul which 
perceives it, I still proceed to demand. Where 
does it exist? Shall we say that it exists in the 
glass? Perhaps so, but this must be made at least 
intelligible, before another can assent to it. What, 
a whole expanded world in a piece of glass? Well, 
let those who think so enjoy their own opinion. 
For my part, I freely own I am not a match for 
such reasoners; and so I grant, as to a superior 
genius, whatsoever they shall be pleased to require 
of me. As likewise to those who shall seriously 
contend, that the objects seen as in the glass, are 
not indeed in the glass, but in the e>e of him that 
seeth them; not thinking it possible to urge any 
thing to the contrary, which will be of the least 
weight or moment to alter their opinion. 

Nevertheless, I expect to find some, either of 
the learned or unlearned part of the world, who, 
upon the first suggestion, will very readily agree 
with me, that the objects seen as in the glass, are 
not external to the mind which sees them; and in- 
deed this is to me so simply evident, that I cannot 
induce my mind to set formally about the proof of 
it, and do almost repent me that I have said so 
much already on this head, or that I did not at 
once lay it down as a thing universally taken for 
granted, at least which would be granted upon the 
first suggestion. However, till such time as I am 


apprized of an adversary, I will now conclude 
that the objects seen as in a glass, are not external 
to the soul, or visive faculty of him that seeth 
them; and consequently, that I have here again 
given an instance of a visible object, as much ex- 
ternal to appearance, as any object whatsoever, 
but which is not indeed external. 

Now from all and every of these instances it 
follows, that the visible or apparent externeity of 
an object, is no argument of its real externeity; and 
consequently (if it be not the same thing again 
in other words) that there is a true and real dif- 
ference between the quasi and any real externeity 
of an object; which justifies the distinction laid 
down in my introduction.^® 

This conclusion follows, with the same force 
or evidence, from the possible as from the actual 
instances ; and as much from one of either sort, as 
from ten thousand. For if but one, and that a pos- 
sible instance, be given and allowed of, wherein 
an object may be seen, with all the visible marks 
of being external, which attend any visible or seen 
object whatsoever, but which yet is not indeed ex- 
ternal; this one intirely destroys all connection 
between apparent and real externeity; and so the 
consequence will be, that an object's appearing to 
be external, is no manner of argument that it is 
really so. 

Yet I have instanced in many things, for my 
reader's sake, as well as my own. For my own in- 


deed, in the first place, in as much as by this means 
I have many strings to my bow, which must every 
one be broken before the bow itself can be bent 
the other way. But yet not forgetting my reader's 
benefit, (if he will allow it to be any) inasmuch 
as, amongst so many instances, he may meet with 
one at least which will hit in with his way of 
reasoning, and so dispose him to read what fol- 
lows with the more pleasure. 


That a visible object, as such, is not external. 

HAVING shewn that there is no consequence 
from the visible or quasi externeity of an object to 
any real externeity of it, I come in the next place 
to shew, that a visible world is not, cannot be ex- 

But before I enter upon this task, what should 
hinder me from asserting my privilege of standing 
still in this place, and demanding to have some 
other argument produced for the externeity of the 
visible world, besides that of its seeming externe- 
ity? This is that which convinces people of every 
age, and sex, and degree, that the objects they be- 
hold are really external; and this I am sure, with 
far the greater part, is the only reason which in- 
duces this persuasion. With such, and even with 
all, till some other argument be produced, I may 


be allowed to argue, as if this were the only argu- 
ment: that is, to conclude outright, that no visible 
object is indeed external. For to remove all the 
pillars on which a building stands, is usually 
thought to be as effectual a way to demolish it, as 
any direct force or violence. 

But not to insist on every point of property, 
when so large a field is before me, I will here im- 
mediately enter upon the work of proving it to 
my reader, according to my promise. And here, 

I. First of all, let him try once more the ex- 
periment already mentioned, of pressing or dis- 
torting his eye with his finger. In this case I ob- 
served before, (with an appeal for the truth of it 
to common experience,) that two like objects ap- 
pear, or are seen. Hence I concluded, that only 
one of these can be external; that is, that one of 
them is not so. But here I argue from the same 
fact, that neither of them is external. 

Let an instance be put, as suppose the object 
which we call the moon, by pressing my eye I see 
two moons, equally vivid, equally external; if so, 
they are both external, or neither. But we are 
agreed already that they are not both so, therefore 
neither of them is external. 

If any one will affirm, that only one of these 
moons is external, I must desire him to give me 
one mark or sign of the externeity of one, which is 
not in the other. In the mean time let him try this 
experiment with himself. 


In the act of seeing two moons, let him call 
one of them the true external moon, and the other 
only an appearing or false, or by any other name 
which he shall please to give it: this done, let him 
(with his eyes or mind still intent upon these ob- 
jects) remove his finger, and press the other eye 
in like manner; or shut either one of his eyes, still 
keeping the other intent on the same object, and 
he will find by manifest experience, that the moon, 
which he calls the true, will prove to be the false, 
and that which he calls the false, will prove to be 
the true. This, I think, is plain and palpable dem- 
onstration, that they are both equally true, or (as 
we here understand the word) both equally ex- 
ternal. Since therefore no more than one can be 
pretended to be external, to say that they are both 
equally so, is the same as to say that they are neither 
of them so. 

Note I. That the same argument here pro- 
ceeding on the instance of the moon, is the very 
same with relation to any other visible object. So 
that the conclusion comprehends the whole visible 
world at once; or, in other words, every visible ob- 
ject considered as visible or seen. 

Note 2. The same conclusion likewise fol- 
lows from every one of the instances mentioned in 
the former section. Since, as on one hand it ap- 
pears that there is no consequence from the appar- 
ent to any real externeity of an object; so in the 
very act of supposing certain objects, which are as 


much apparently external as any objects whatso- 
ever, but which indeed are not external, we must of 
course suppose them to be as much indeed external 
as any objects whatsoever. Since therefore some are 
not external, we must conclude that none are so. 
And this conclusion will and must hold good till 
some mark or sign be given of the externeity of one 
object, which is not also in the other; the very at- 
tempt of which is contrary to the supposition. But 
to proceed. 

II. It is a maxim in philosophy that like is 
not the same, and therefore much more one would 
think should it be allowed that things vastly dif- 
ferent are not the same. As for instance, that light 
is not darkness, nor darkness light; that greater is 
not less, nor less greater, &c. And yet on such 
plain and simple principles as these it follows that 
the visible world is not external. 

Here then let us again single out an object 
which will answer for the whole visible world, and 
let it be the same as before, viz. the moon. The 
question is, Whether the moon which I see is ex- 
ternal or not? In this question there is not a word 
but what is plain and simple, or which has been 
explained already: let us then proceed to the trial 
of it by the plain rule before-mentioned, viz., that 
things different are not the same, which indeed is 
the same thing in other words with the first princi- 
ple of science, viz. Impossibile est idem esse & 
non esse}^ 


I. First then I am content for a while to 
grant that there is an external world, and in this 
world an external moon in a place far distant from 
us, which we call the heavens. Still the question 
returns, whether the moon which I see be that ex- 
ternal moon here supposed to be in the heavens? 
Well now, the moon which I see is a luminous or 
bright object. But is the moon supposed to be in 
the heavens a luminous thing or body? No; but 
a dark or opacious body, if there is any truth in 
the unanimous assent of all philosophers. Again, 
the moon which I see is a plain surface; but is 
the moon in the heavens a plain surface? No; all 
the world agree that the moon in the heavens is 
rotund or spherical. Again, the moon which I 
see is semicircular or cornuted; but is this the 
figure of the moon supposed to be in the heavens? 
No; we all affirm that the moon in the heavens 
is round or dircular. Again, lastly, the moon 
which I see is a little figure of light, no bigger 
than a trencher, nay so little, as to be intirely cov- 
erable by a shilling. But is this a just descrip- 
tion of the moon supposed to be in the heavens? 
No ; the moon in the heavens is by all allowed to 
be a body of prodigious size, of some thousands of 
miles in its diameter. Well then, what follows 
from all this, but that the moon in the heavens is 
not the moon which I see ; or, that the moon which 
I see is not in the heavens, or external to my per- 
ceptive or visive faculty? 


2. Secondly, As we have seen that the moon 
which I see, is not the same with any moon sup- 
posed to be in the heavens, and consequently, that 
the moon which I see is not external, by a compar- 
ison of the visible or seen moon, with that which 
is supposed to be external ; so, the same thing will 
appear by a comparison of visible things with vis- 
ible, or, of the same thing, (as I must here speak, 
for want of more proper words,) with itself. But 
to explain. 

At this instant I see a little strip of light, 
which common use has taught me to call the moon. 
Now again I see a larger, which is still called by 
the same name. At this instant I see a semicircle; 
a while after I see a circle of light, and both these 
are called the moon. Again, now I see a circle of 
light of such or such a magnitude; a while after 
I see a circle of light of a much greater magnitude ; 
and both these, as before, I am taught to call the 
moon. But really and truly, instead of one, I see 
many moons, unless things different are the same. 
How then can I believe that the moons which I 
see are either one or all of them external? That 
they are all so cannot be pretended, for no one ever 
dreamt of more than one external moon; and I am 
as confident on the other hand, that no one will 
pretend that either one of them is external, as in 
exclusion of the rest. I conclude then that they 
are all alike external, that is, that neither of them 
is so; and consequently, (there being nothing in 



this but what is equally true of every other object 
of the visible world,) that no visible object is, or 
can be, external. 

III. But why such long fetches to prove a 
simple truth? It is no wonder that my reader 
(who perhaps has never thought of this subject 
before) should overlook the exact point of the 
question, when I myself can scarce keep it in view. 
I would beg leave therefore to remind myself and 
him, that the question in hand does not any way 
proceed upon, or so much as need the mention of 
any bodies supposed to be external, and unknown 
to us; but the question is, whether the extensions, 
figures, bodies, (or whatever else you will call 
them) which I see quasi without me, be indeed 
without me or not. 

But can the resolution of any case be more 
plain and simple than of this? For is there any 
other possible way of seeing a thing than by having 
such or such a thing present to our minds? And 
can an object be present to the mind, or visive fac- 
ulty, which is affirmed to be external to it? Then 
may we think, without thinking on any thing; or 
perceive, without having any thing in our mind. 
If then the presentialness of the object be necessary 
to the act of vision, the object perceived cannot 
possibly be external to, at a distance from, or inde- 
pendent on, us: And consequently, the only sense 
in which an object can be said to exist without us, 
is its being not seen or perceived. But the objects 


we speak of are supposed to be seen, and therefore 
are not external to us, which is the point to be de- 
monstrated. ^° 

[To this I might add another, which (if pos- 
sible) is a yet more simple manner of proceeding 
to the same conclusion. And it is this. The ob- 
jects we speak about are supposed to be visible; 
and that they are visible or seen, is supposed to be 
all that we know of them, or their existence. If 
so, they exist as visible, or in other words, their 
visibility is their existence. This therefore de- 
stroys all, or any distinction between their being, 
and their being seeUj by making them both the 
same thing; and this evidently at the same time 
destroys the externeity of them. But this argu- 
ment has the misfortune of being too simple and 
evident, for the generality of readers, who are apt 
to fancy that light itself is not seen, but by the help 
of darkness; and so, without insisting any farther 
on this head, I proceed to some other points which 
may seem to be more intelligible.] 

IV. Surely, could the most extravagant 
imagination of man have conceived a way, how an 
object supposed to be external, could ever possibly 
become visible, philosophers would never have 
been at so great an expence of fruitless meditation, 
as to forge the strange doctrine of the active and 
passive intellect, impressed and expressed species, 
&c. whereby to account for our manner of seeing 


objects. This doctrine, as I remember, is as fol- 

It is supposed, that when a man stands oppo- 
site to an object, there are certain scales or images, 
(which proceed from this object representing it) 
which fly in at the eye, where they meet with a 
certain being, faculty, or power, called the active 
intellect, which, in an instant, spiritualizes them 
into ideas, and thence delivers them to the inmost 
recess of the soul, called the passive intellect, which 
perceives or sees them. 

Now far be it from me to move the least objec- 
tion against this account of vision. They are 
doubtless all plain and simple ideas, or else Aris- 
totle had not chosen, neither had the tribe of phil- 
osophers since patronized them.^^ 

I only observe first, that this antient, and al- 
most universal account of vision, supposes that the 
object seen is this supposed scale or effluvium. 
And consequently, secondly, that in order to the 
act of vision, there is, and must be, an intimate 
union between faculty and object. 

For if the soul can see an object which is not 
present with it, there had been no need of images 
of the object to become present to the soul, by pass- 
ing through the eye, &c. However, they need not 
be images, but any other fashioned particles would 
have done as well, if the objects seen were not those 
very images thus spiritualized in the active, and 
thence passing on to the passive, intellect. 


Why then should not I conclude, even with 
universal consent, that the objects seen are not ex- 
ternal, but intimately present with, or existent in, 
the soul? 

Those who patronize this hypothesis of vision, 
will, doubtless, tell me, that it is the least of their 
thoughts thereby to affirm and conclude, that the 
visible world is not external. On the contrary, 
that the hypothesis itself supposes an external 
world, or outward objects, from whence these 
images or efifluviums proceed. 

I answer, it does so; but it does not say or 
suppose, that these external objects are visible or 
seen, but only that they are or exist eternally. On 
the contrary, the objects seen are supposed to be 
these images, which, in order to be seen, must first 
cease to be external ; that is, must pass into the soul, 
and become ideally present with it. So that this 
account of vision supposes the visible world, as 
such, to be not external. 

If, together with this, men will yet hold or 
affirm that the visible world is external, I can only 
shew them that their own account supposes the 
direct contrary. But it is neither in mine, nor any 
other person's power, to hinder another from hold- 
ing contradictions. 

V. From the old 1 proceed to the hypothesis 
of vision, which is a part of the new philosophy. 
Every one, I suppose, has heard of the doctrine 
of seeing the divine ideas, or (as Mr. Malebranche 


expresses it) seeing all things in God.^^ By this 
every mode of pure or intellective perception is 
accounted for ; but I am here concerned only with 
that w^hich is distinguished by the name of vision. 
With regard to this the hypothesis is as foUoweth. 

In every act of vision they distinguish two 
things, viz. sensation and idea^ in other words col- 
our and figure. Colour, they say, is nothing dif- 
ferent from the soul which seeth it, it being only 
a modification of thought or mind. And as for 
figure, viz. this or that particular figure which is 
seen, they call it part of that intelligible extension 
which God includes, or contemplates, thus and 
thus exhibited to our minds. 

Now I say, nothing is more evident than that 
this account of vision supposes that external matter 
is not visible ; and consequently, that visible matter 
is not external. So evident, that I depend even on 
my Aristotelian reader, (who neither approves, 
nor so much as understands, what these new phil- 
osophers mean,) that he will perceive at first sight 
that this must needs be meant by it. 

However, when I am apprized of any one 
who doubts of it, I shall not only be ready to argue 
this matter fairly with him, but will also undertake 
to produce several express passages from the writ- 
ers of this sort, which directly affirm and contend, 
that external matter is not, cannot, become visible. 

Nevertheless, I am sensible of the opposition 
which may be made to this assertion, from several 


other passages taken from the same writers. But 
I cannot help it if men will speak inconsistently 
with themselves; or explain their meaning so by 
halves, as that the same thing shall appear to be 
both affirmed and denied by them. 

But the truth is, I fear but little opposition 
as to this point: since no one will have zeal enough 
to undertake it, but those who professedly patron- 
ize this new pholosophy: and I have so good an 
opinion of these, as to believe that they will rather 
take the hint, and agree with me, upon due re- 
flection, than set themselves to oppose, from any 
partial regard to their own preconceived opinions. 

VI. I shall therefore once more endeavour to 
persuade my Aristotelian reader, that it is accord- 
ing to the principles of his own philosophy to as- 
sert, that visible matter is not external.^^ 

For this I would refer him to what he will 
find in the first book of philosophy, he shall hap- 
pen to light on, which has anything on the general 
subject of matter. For instance, let him consult 
Suarez,^"* Scheibler," or Baronius,^^ on this sub- 
ject, which will be found in their books of meta- 
physicks; which authors I mention more particu- 
larly, because with these I myself have been most 
acquainted; not but that I dare appeal to the first 
philosopher on this subject which my reader shall 
happen to lay his hands on: But to the point. 

I do not here affirm, that any one philosopher 
of this sort has ever once asserted, that visible mat- 



ter is not external, or so much as ever moved the 
question, whether it be so or not: on the contrary, 
I verily believe, that if the question had been put 
to every individual of them, they would unani- 
mously have affirmed that it is certainly external. 
Nevertheless, I still appeal to my impartial reader, 
whether the questions which they move, and the 
resolutions which they agree in, concerning the 
thing which they call matter^ do not plainly sup- 
pose that they are speaking of an object which they 
do not see, and which is utterly invisible. 

As for instance, it is usual for them to enquire 
whether matter exists or not. Whether it has an 
actus entitativus ; or whether it be only pura poten- 
tia}^ How it is capable of being known, &c. 

As to the first of these questions they use to 
resolve it thus. That matter must needs exist, be- 
cause it is supposed to be created, and also because 
it is supposed to be a part of a compositum. And 
here again they will tell you, that if it were alto- 
gether nothing, it could do nothing in nature; it 
could not be the subject of generation and cor- 
ruption; it could not be true, that all things in 
their corruption are reduced to matter; and be- 
sides, if matter was nothing, there would be a con- 
tinual creation and annihilation, which is absurd, 

As to the second question, viz. whether it be 
pura potentia, or not, they distinguish of a twofold 
actus] actus physicus, and actus metaphysicus. 


Secundum actum physicum^ they say, matter is al- 
lowed to be pura potentia^ but not secundum actum 
metaphysicum^ &c. 

And then lastly, as to the other question, viz. 
quomodo materia possit cognosci/^ they resolve it 
thus, That God and angels are supposed to know 
it per propriam speciem ; but we are supposed to 
know it only by consequence, or, as they say, per 
proportionem seu analogiam ad materiam rerum 
artificialium^ &c. whence Plato is quoted by them, 
as saying, that matter is knowable only adulterina 

Now I say, for what are all these, and several 
other such like fetches which I could name, if the 
matter they inquire about be that which is visible 
or seen? Can it be doubted whether that exists or 
not which is supposed to be seen? Whether such 
an object as this be actus entitativus, or pura po- 
tential And whether we know anything of the 
existence of an object which we are supposed to 

If visible matter were the matter they are de- 
bating about, can it possibly be accounted for, that 
not the least mention is ever made of our seeing it? 
Or, that for its existence, &c. they should never 
think of rrferring us to our senses? And yet I defy 
another to shew me but one word of this sort in 
any philosophic disputation on this subject. 

Nay, they plainly tell us, that the matter they 


speak about is not by us seen, but is directly know- 
able only by God and angels. 

If then the inquiry they make about matter 
be not about any matter supposed to be seen by us, 
yet nothing is more evident, than that the matter 
they speak about is supposed to be external. So 
that what should hinder us from concluding, that 
it is the unanimous opinion of these philosophers, 
(though indeed they have never in express words 
affirmed it,) that external matter is, at least to us, 
invisible; and consequently, that visible or seen 
matter is not external \ which is all that I am here 
concerned for, leaving others to explain for them 
what they mean when they affirm, that external 
matter is visible to God and angels. 


Objections answered. 

HAVING proved my point after my own 
manner, it may be expected that I now attend to 
what another may offer on the contrary part. This, 
I confess, is a piece of justice which I owe a fair 
adversary, and accordingly I here profess I will 
be ready at any time, either to answer his objec- 
tions, or submit to the force of them. But how can 
it be expected that I myself should oppose any- 
thing to the point I have been contending for? 


For my reader may remember, that I have already 
declared, that I know of no one reason or argu- 
ment, either in myself formerly, or from others, 
for the externeity of the visible world, besides its 
seeming externeity. But if I have not already 
shewn the inconsequence of this argument, I con- 
fess I have been very idly employed ; and if I have, 
I have at once answered every objection that can 
reasonably be expected from me, to be urged 
against the point I am concerned for. 

There may be cavils indeed enough, and of 
these I expect my share from a certain quarter; 
for having endeavoured, with a serious air, to 
demonstrate a proposition which is so contrary to 
common prejudice, and which some perhaps will 
be resolved not to admit; nay, I myself am not so 
abstracted from my former self, as not to be able 
very easily to invent a set of arguments of this 
sort. But what can in reason be expected that I 
should do with an adversary of this sort? Shall I 
study a means to convert those whom confessedly 
it is not in my power to convince? But I have 
said already that I know of no mechanical engine 
proper to remove prejudices; and I must still pro- 
fess the same, till this awakened age shall bless 
the world with the discovery. Shall I then alto- 
gether pretermit the mention of such objections, 
affecting to despise them, as not worth the labour 
of answering them? This indeed I would do if 
I wrote on the side of a prevailing party; but a 


whole world against one is too considerable an 
adversary to be despised, though they were not 
only in the wrong, but were little better than id- 
eots. But I have reason to expect, that not only 
such, but even the wise and learned, at least by far 
the greater part, will be my adversaries in this 
point, after all the endeavour which I have used 
to justify it; and therefore, till I am apprised of 
some other, I must suppose them to be so, in virtue 
of such objections as I can think of at present, or 
have by accident heard from others in conversa- 
tion, which are these that follow. 

Objection i. 

First, I expect to be told, that in arguing 
against the extra-existence of the visible world, I 
oppose a known evidence of truth, viz. the uni- 
versal consent of mankind, that it is external.^*^ 


This now is one of the things which I just now 
called cavils, which I think is the best name that 
an argument deserves, which is nothing at all to 
the purpose in that wherein it is true; at least such 
a one as is false, both in principle and in conse- 
quence, which will, I suppose, appear to be the 
case of the present objection. For, 

First, as to the fact or minor part of the argu- 


ment, what should hinder me from denying it? 
For, first, who can assure me that since the world 
began, not one or two, or two hundred persons, 
have not been of that opinion which I am here con- 
cerned for? How many may have written on this 
subject in former times, and we not hear of it in 
the present? And how many more may have lived 
and died of this opinion, and yet have never writ- 
ten on it? But, secondly, what if we allow that 
not one has ever written on this subject before? 
This will but turn to the disadvantage of the ob- 
jection. For where then is the universal consent 
before spoken of? Do we mean the same by it as 
universal silence? Silence in this case will amount 
to but a very slender argument of consent; and in- 
deed so slender, that the bare opinion or affirma- 
tion of any one person to the contrary, who has 
professedly considered and inquired about the 
matter, will outweigh a silence ever so universal, 
and may even justly challenge the evidence of con- 
sent, be it more or less, on his side of the question.^^ 
If therefore the question about the externeity 
of the visible world, has never, before this time, 
been professedly considered, I may fairly plead 
universal consent for that part which I defend; 
since the consent of all that have ever considered 
it, must needs be all that is meant by universal con- 
sent. If therefore there be found on the contrary 
part, any thing in mankind which is like consent, 
it must lose its name, and be called prejudice or 


inclination; which is an adversary (as I have ob- 
served before) I have no arms to contend with. 
But lastly, methinks it should weigh something 
towards consent on my side, that I have shewn al- 
ready^^ that it is consistent with, and even neces- 
sary to the principles of philosophers of all sides, 
to hold that which I contend for. And if this be 
true, the utmost that can be said in answer to it 
will be this only, that they have contradicted them- 
selves, which I am as ready to admit of, as any one 
can be to urge, since this will make the authority 
of ten thousand of no value against the point I am 
concerned for. But, 

Secondly, What if it were true, or admitted, 
that universal consent lay opposite to my conclu- 
sion? Must it therefore be condemned without 
trial, or hearing of anything in its defence? If not, 
then it is allowed to be possible, that a proposition 
may be true, though it happen to cross the consent 
of all mankind. And if so, how can the contrary 
be true too, namely, that a proposition is therefore 
false, because contrary to consent? But now, if a 
proposition may be true, which is against universal 
consent, I immediately affirm that this is the case 
of the proposition I am contending for. Well, and 
how shall this be tried? How, I say, but by reason 
and disputation? So that unless universal consent 
be held to be an argument universally conclusive, 
it concludes nothing at all, (there being a contra- 
dictory distance between these two propositions, 


viz. a thing may be true which is contrary to con- 
senty and a thing may not be true which is contrary 
to consent.) And therefore the mention of con- 
sent is here altogether needless, at least, its intro- 
duction serves only to convince us, that it is much 
better it had not been introduced. But 

Some perhaps will hold this argument to be 
universally conclusive, viz. A proposition may not 
be true which is contrary to universal consent; and 
this, I suppose, must be the meaning of those who 
will pretend to mean anything by the words of the 
objection. But is there a man upon earth who will 
join issue with me on this foot? Perhaps so, but 
he must excuse me if I declare beforehand that I 
will not do so with him whilst he continues to be 
of this opinion. And I am fool enough to say this, 
because I think I have reason for it. But this alone 
unqualifies me to hold discourse with one who will 
contend, that universal consent is a simple evidence 
of truth. Whereas if this be true, then universal 
consent is truth, and reason, or the common stand- 
ard of every particular truth. Consequently, by 
this rule, a proposition may become true which is 
simply false, or false which is simply true ; that is, 
all that which I have been used to call truth and 
reason is destroyed at once. But now, whatsoever 
proposition I defend or deny, I must take it for 
granted that there is such a thing as truth, inde- 
pendent and immutable, and that reason is reason, 
though ever so many people dissent from me, or 


deny it; that is, I must take the question between 
us for granted, as my first step towards the dis- 
putation of it. And therefore, as on one hand I can 
do no otherwise than thus, and on the other I am 
sure no adversary will allow me to take this meth- 
od with him, we must even part fairly, as being 
unqualified for each other's conversation. And 
this is my best answer to the first objection. 

Objection 2. 

Does not the sense of feeling assure us of the 
extra-existence of the visible world? To this I" 


First. If for instructions sake only you pro- 
pose this question, you are doubtless disposed to 
take my word for an answer; accordingly I answer. 
No; the sense of feeling does not assure us of the 
extra-existence of the visible world. If this does 
not satisfy, you are desired, instead of questions, 
to give me an argument, whereby it may appear 
that the sense of feeling does assure us of the extra- 
existence of the visible world. What makes this 
the more necessary is, because I have proved al- 
ready in great variety that the visible world is not 
external; and amongst the rest, that the sense of 
vision gives us evident assurance, that a visible ob- 
ject, as such, is not, cannot be, external. And me- 


thinks, if this is not false, it should be true; or if 
false, yet should not be so called, till either the 
arguments are answered by which it is defended, 
or some other argument be produced, which con- 
cludes against the truth of it: for till one of these 
things be done I have but the objector's bare as- 
sertion against me, whereas he has mine, and I 
think something else on the other side. But, 

Secondly, I am content to go on with the la- 
bouring oar in my hand, and shew the contrary 
to that which is affirmed in the objection. Accord- 
ingly I affirm, 

First, That be the object of the sense of feel- 
ing what it will, or leaving the decision of this mat- 
ter at large, feeling is no argument of the extra- 
existence of this object. For the truth of this I will 
only refer my reader back to what has been al- 
ready observed on this subject; or rather I presume 
that he remembers both that^ and hoiv I have pre- 
vented the force of this part of the objection; so 
that till I hear farther on this point I may save my- 
self the pains of adding anything in this place. 
But I affirm also, 

Secondly, that the sense of feeling is so far 
from assuring us of the extra-existence of the vis- 
ible world, that it does not so much as say any- 
thing of its existence simple. I say not here with 
a certain Author,*^'* that we cannot feel existence^ 
it being the same thing to do so as to feel a propo- 

•Mr. Norris's Theory of the Ideal World. Vol. 1, p. 198. §13. 


sition. This may be a good argument for aught 
I know, but I profess it is too high or too low for 
me, for I do not understand it. But what I affirm 
is this, that whatever be the object of the sense of 
feeling, and even admitting that it assures us of the 
existence of its proper object; things visible are 
not the object of this sense ;" and consequently we 
can have no assurance this way of so much as the 
existence simple of such objects. I know not how 
it may sound to another, but to me to say, I can 
feel a visible object, is just such another piece of 
sense as to say, I can see the sound of a trumpet, 
or hear the colours of a rainbow. One would 
think it should be granted me that a visible object 
is visible, and that a tangible object is tangible, 
and that seeing and feeling are two different things 
or sensations ; but it is the same thing to me though 
they were one and the same; for if so, then as vis- 
ion is feeling, so feeling is vision; and then I have 
proved already that a visible object, as such, is not 
external, whereas if they are different they must 
have different objects, be the names of them what 
they will; and then a visible object will be one 
thing, and a tangible object another: and therefore 
how the existence of a tangible object should be- 
come an argument for the existence (much more 
the extra-existence) of a visible object, is indeed 
past my skill to understand, any farther than this, 
that if I understand anything at all, I understand. 


and I think I have shewn, this to be a plain and 
glaring contradiction. And so I proceed to 

Objection 3. 

Which is Mr. Des Cartes's;'*' and that ac- 
cording to the best of my remembrance is this: he 
concludes the being of an external world from the 
truth and goodness of God, who is not to be sup- 
posed to deceive us in our involuntary judgments 
or inclinations. [This, I say, I take to be his 
meaning, though my manner of expressing it be 
very different from that of his two great followers, 
Mr. Malebranche *^' and Mr. Norris,§^^ for which 
I refer my reader to the places cited at the bottom. 
Whether I have done him justice, or not, I leave 
to be disputed by those who think I have not. In 
the mean time, the reason which I give for dif- 
fering from these great persons is, because as they 
have represented his argument, it seems to be in- 
consistent with itself, and has not so much as the 
appearance of being an objection; whereas, as I 
have here given it, it seems to have some appear- 
ance, though how far it is from being a real ar- 
gument against anything I am concerned for, will 
appear by this that foUoweth.] 


I. If by the being of an external world, be 

* Search's Illustrations, page 112. 37 

§ Theory of the Ideal World, Vol. 1, p. 208. 


meant the being of a world, which, as external, is 
supposed to be invisible, this is nothing to my pres- 
ent purpose, but belongs wholly to my Second Part; 
wherein I shall attempt to shew that an external 
world is simply an impossibility, which external 
world will be also there supposed to be invisible. 
But if by the being of an external world be meant 
the same as the external being, or (as I have hith- 
erto called it) the extra-existence or externeity of 
the visible or sensible world, it is then indeed an 
objection against the point I am now upon. Ac- 

2. I say, that in my opinion it is no imputa- 
tion on the truth and goodness of God to affirm, 
much less to attempt to prove, that the visible 
world is not external. It is no business of mine to 
prove this negative, though it be the easiest thing 
in the world so to do. Let them prove the con- 
trary who build their whole cause of an external 
world upon the force of it. It is enough for me 
that I have shewn by many arguments that the vis- 
ible world is not external. These arguments either 
conclude, or they do not; if not, let this be made 
appear by a just and distinct answer to them ; but 
if they do, the point is gained, and they must be 
persons strangely disposed, who after this will ex- 
pect I should take their word, when they say, that 
the truth or goodness of God is concerned, that 
that should be false, which is, and must be sup- 


posed to be true. But to be something more par- 
ticular I answer, 

First, That I deny the supposition of the in- 
voluntariness of our judgments for the externeity 
of the visible world. For this it is enough that I 
myself am one, who am so far from being invol- 
untarily determined to this assent, that I can, and 
have already demonstrated that it is not external. 

Secondly, We should come to a fine pass of 
reasoning indeed, if this manner of proceeding 
were allowed to be good, viz. I am inclined to 
judge such or such a thing to be so or so; ergo, // 
is as I would have it, because God will not deceive 
me?^ It is in vain in this case to appeal to reason 
and argument; nay, though God himself should 
supply us with reason against our inclination, nay, 
and give us his word that our inclination is erron- 
eous, yet still we are bound to stand by it, and even 
plead the authority of God against himself. But, 
lastly. Do I hear this from a Cartesian, even from 
Des Cartes himself, who is for nothing more known 
in the world than for giving us many instances 
wherein a common inclination may be, and is er- 
roneous; as in judging light to be in the sun, heat 
in the fire, or in the hand, colours on external ob- 
jects,"*" &c. In all these cases we are as much in- 
clined as in judging the visible world to be ex- 
ternal; and yet it is enough with him and his fol- 
lowers for the confutation of these inclinations, 
that they have good reason to the contrary: and 


this methinks should be enough in any case, and 
with any persons, unless we are resolved to be un- 
reasonable, and even profess ourselves Sceptics, 
and if so, I confess I am silenced/^ 


That there is no external world, and, That an ex- 
ternal world is a being utterly impossible.*^ 


HAVING shewn in my former part that the 
visible world is not external, I come now to the 
other thing proposed in the beginning, namely to 
demonstrate more at large, or simply, that an ex- 
ternal world is a being utterly impossible, or that 
there is no such world. Now to this, as before, I 
shall proceed by steps. 


AND here I affirm, in the first place, that (ab- 
stracting from any argument directly proving this 
point) we are bound already so far to conclude 


that there is no external world, as that it is against 
all the laws of fair reason and argument to sup- 
pose or make mention of any such world. For if 
a visible world, as such, is not external, an external 
world, as such, must be utterly invisible, and if in- 
visible, unknowable, unless by revelation/^ 

For, first, an external world (if there be any 
such thing) is, I suppose, allowed by all to be a 
creature ;"* but the being of a creature is not to be 
proved by reason, for reason converses only in 
things necessary or eternal, whereas a creature, as 
such, is contingent, and temporary; so that in vain 
shall we seek to reason to assure us of the existence 
of an external world. 

Then, secondly, it is here supposed that we 
should seek to as little purpose to the testimony of 
sense, since an external world, as such, is here sup- 
posed to be absolutely invisible. Whether we 
have any notice from revelation of the being of 
any such world shall be considered in its proper 
place.''^ In the mean time I here suppose also, 
Thirdly, that we have no such notice, so that, as 
the case stands at present, an external world is a 
being utterly unknown. 

But now I have always received it as a law, 
that we ought never to reason but upon known 
ideas ; and if this be just and reasonable, an exter- 
nal world, as being unknown^ ought to have as lit- 
tle place in our reasonings as if we knew for certain 
that there was no such world. 


Nay, on the supposition of its being unknown, 
we are not only bound to omit the mention of it, 
but also warranted to conclude that there is no such 
world. This, I say, must be an allowed conse- 
quence, till such time as some other pretends the 
contrary; and he must prove too as well as pretend, 
else the consequence stands good against him. 

Here then is my advantage; we all know and 
are agreed that there is such a thing as a visible 
world, and that a visible object, as such, is not ex- 
ternal: on the other hand, we are as much agreed, 
at least it is here supposed that we are agreed, that 
we know nothing at all of an external world, sup- 
posed, as such, to be invisible : but it is a maxim in 
science, that eadem est ratio non entis Gf non ap- 
parentis. I conclude therefore outright that there 
is no such world. 

It is for this reason that we think it our duty 
to reason only on the supposition of body and spirit^ 
thinking and extended beings, viz. because we have 
no knowledge of the existence of any creature, 
which is neither of these. Hence we think it a 
very good and safe way of arguing, to make the 
exclusion of the one, the consequence of the posi- 
tion of the other, and so vice versa. Thus philos- 
ophers use to prove that colour, light, heat, sound, 
&c. belong to, or are affections, of spirits, because 
they are not included in the idea which we have of 
body. The principle or major proposition of 
which argument is plainly this. There are but 


two sorts of beings in the world, viz. spirit and 
matter; then the minor is this, viz. light, &u:. do not 
belong to matter, ergo, they belong to spirit. Now 
if this way of arguing is good, it is so by virtue of 
that principle, that we ought to reason only on 
known ideas, and that things which appear not, 
are but equal to things which are not; and it is in 
virtue of the same that I here plead a right to con- 
clude that there is no such thing as an external 

I pretend not this to be demonstration of the 
point simply, as if I should say that a thing's being 
unknown were a direct argument of its not being at 
all ; but yet this is something so very near of kin to 
a demonstration, and so every way serving all the 
ends and purposes of a demonstration, that whoever 
has the advantage of it on his side, has as little to 
fear from an adversary, as he that can produce ten 
thousand demonstrations. For this is an evident 
principle or rule of reasoning, that a thing un- 
known ought never to be supposed, and therefore 
till it be supposed, it is the very same thing as to 
us as if there were no such thing at all. To sup- 
pose the being of a thing granted to be unknown, 
with him who affirms that it is nothing at all, is to 
beg the question ; whereas, to suppose it to be noth- 
ing at all upon the same concession, is not to beg 
the question; I mean any fair or legal one, because 
on one hand, no one has any right to make that a 
question which he professes that he knows nothing 


of ; and on the other, every one has a right not only 
to question the existence, but also to suppose the 
non-existence of what is granted to be unknown. 
So that whilst this is granted, in the case before us, 
I have the same advantage against any one who 
shall suppose an external world (viz. either in actu 
formali, as in opposition to what I here contend 
for, or in actu exercito,^^ in the resolution of any 
philosophical or general question, which depends 
on the yea or nay of this point,) as if I were girt 
about with ever so many demonstrations, 

I might therefore fairly rest here, and save 
myself the labour of producing any direct or osten- 
sive arguments against the being or possibility of 
an external world : but to give my reader the best 
satisfaction I can, and also to establish my conclu- 
sion in some measure answerably to the good use 
and moment of it, I am content to propose the fol- 
lowing demonstrations. 


AN external world is here supposed to be in- 
visible, even utterly or absolutely so, absolutely 
incapable of being an object of vision or percep- 
tion ; insomuch, that though it were here supposed 
that an external world were capable of existing, or 


that any power were sufficient to produce such a 
thing or being, yet no power can be supposed to be 
sufficient to make it visible or seen. For a visible 
world, as such, is not external, as has been shewn 
already: so that to say, that an external world may 
(by any cause) become visible, is a contradiction in 

Well now, an external world is supposed to be, 
or to imply creature; so that if there be any such 
thing in being, it is so, because God has willed, 
made or created it. 

But for what end, or use, or purpose, can we 
suppose that God should create an invisible world? 
A world, which, as invisible, is incapable of being 
inhabited, incapable of being known? For my 
part I can think of no use which such a world can 
be of. And considering that such a world is here 
granted to be unknown, it is not incumbent on me 
to shew that it can be of no use, but on them to shew 
the contrary, who are concerned for the being of 
it. So that till this be done I have a right to sup- 
pose that it is of no use at all, and consequently to 
affirm that there is no such world. 

For though the principle must take its chance 
to be either admitted or denied, as men shall please 
to judge (only that, as I observed just now, he must 
prove his point, who will venture on the denial of 
it,) still the consequence is good, and must pass 
with all for demonstration, that a creature which is 
not, cannot be of any use, is at best but a possibility^ 


but such a possibility as neither will, nor can be 
produced into act. 

This, with certain wits, may appear to be a 
contradiction ; and perhaps I should mend the mat- 
ter but little by the answer I am most inclined to 
make them, namely, that though it be so, yet it is 
nevertheless true; nay, that I could easily shew 
them a hundred such contradictions, which yet they 
themselves will acknowledge to be true. But I am 
content so far to favour the iniquity of words, as to 
explain by a distinction this appearing difficulty. 

I say then, that things are possible or impos- 
sible, after a twofold manner. One is, when in the 
idea or conception of the thing there is, or is not, 
any repugnancy or contradiction. 

This is what may be called an internal or in- 
trinsic possibility, or impossibility; possibility 
where there is not, impossibility where there is, this 
supposed repugnancy. 

The other is, when the repugnancy or impedi- 
ment is, or is not, (not in the thing itself, but) in 
the cause, or time, or some other circumstance or 
affection of the thing. But in this place I am con- 
cerned only with the first of these, viz. the cause. 

A thing is possible in its cause, when there is, 
in the idea of its cause, no impediment to be found, 
forbidding its existence, or which is the same, with- 
holding the efficient from producing it into act; 
and when the contrary to this happens, then the 
thing is impossible. For, since everything exists 


by its cause, it will as certainly not exist if the 
cause does not produce it, as if in its own idea it 
implied a contradiction. And if the supposed im- 
pediment in the cause be invincible, the existence 
of the thing supposed becomes properly impos- 
sible. This I would therefore call an external or 
extrinsic possibility or impossibility. A thing then 
may be both possible and impossible in these dif- 
ferent respects; that is, intrinsically possible, but 
extrinsically impossible; and therefore of such a 
thing it may be be said without any contradiction, 
that though it be admitted to be possible, (viz. 
intrinsically,) yet it is such a possibility, as neither 
will, nor can, be produced into act, (viz. by reason 
of an impediment found in its cause, which though 
an extrinsic, is yet a real impossibility against the 
being of it.) 

But now this is the case before us, viz. of an 
external or invisible world. Admitting it to be 
possible with regard to the thing itself, that such a 
world should exist; yet an useless creature cannot 
possibly be made, when we regard its cause, viz. 
God, who can do nothing to no purpose, by reason 
of his wisdom.'*^ Here then lies the impediment 
spoken of in the cause, which makes it extrinsically, 
but yet really impossible, that there should be any 
such world. I say really so, because the wisdom 
by which God acts is necessary and immutable ; and 
therefore if it be simply against the order of wis- 
dom to do an useless act, the impediment against 


the doing of it is to the full as invincible, as if a 
repugnancy were found in the idea or conception 
of the thing itself, here supposed to be done, or not 
done; and consequently an useless effect is a real 

But I have often found upon examination, 
that where an extrinsic impossibility lies against 
any point, we need but search to the bottom of it, 
and we shall find an intrinsic repugnancy in the 
thing itself. And this I think I have seen to be the 
case of an external world, as I suppose will appear 
from some of the following chapters. 


AS for instance. An external world, whose 
extension is absolute, that is, not relatively depend- 
ing on any faculty of perception, has (in my opin- 
ion,) such a repugnancy in its extension, as actually 
destroys the being of the subject world. The re- 
pugnancy is this, that it is, or must be, both finite 
and infinite. 

Accordingly then I argue thus. That which is 
both finite and infinite in extent, is absolutely non- 
existent, or there is, or can be, no such world. Or 
thus, an extent or expansion, which is both finite 
and infinite, is neither finite nor infinite, that is, is 


no expansion at all. But this is the case of an ex- 
ternal expansion, ergo^ there is, or can be, no such 

I know not what will pass with some men for 
argument, if both the matter and manner of this 
be not approved of. For first, what can well be 
more evident than both the premises? That a 
thing, in the same respect, cannot be both finite and 
infinite; or that a thing which in the idea of it im- 
plies both finite and infinite, is in act neither finite 
nor infinite; and that what is neither finite nor 
infinite, is not at all, are (with me, and I suppose 
with all pretenders to reason,) such prime princi- 
ples of science, that I must needs depend that these 
will never be called in question by any but pro- 
fessed sceptics. Then as to the minor, its evidence 
is to me so glaring, and (in the little conversation 
I have had in the learned world) so universally 
assented to, that I am rather inclined here also to 
make my appeal for, than endeavour to shew the 
truth of it. This of the extent of an external 
world, is that which is called opprobrium philoso- 
phorunij being a point owned by all to have an 
invincible demonstration, both for and against it. 
Some indeed, by way of hypothesis, have held it 
to be finitely, and some to be infinitely, extended, 
according as either of these has best served the ends 
of some other points they have been concerned for. 
But I have never yet met with any one so hardy as, 
in defence of one, to have endeavoured to dissolve 


or answer the arguments lying on the other side of 
the contradiction. For this reason I need not here 
name either the one sort, or the other, but conclude 
outright, even with universal consent, that an ex- 
pansion external is both (that is neither) finite and 
infinite. Then, 

Secondly, as to the form or manner of this 
argument, it has first evidently this to plead for 
itself, that there is nothing in its conclusion but 
what is in the premises which shews it to be no fal- 
lacy, but a legal and just argument. And also this, 
secondly, that it is exactly parallel with several 
arguments which I could name, allowed by all to 
be good, and even perfectly demonstrative. 

As for instance, suppose a man should advance 
the notion of a triangular square. Or suppose, two 
persons contending about the attributes of this 
strange idea: one arguing from the idea of tri- 
angle, that it has but three angles; and the other 
contending that it must have four, from the idea of 
a square; what could any reasonable stander-by 
conclude from this, but that the thing they are dis- 
puting about is nothing at all, even an impossibility 
or contradiction? Nay, the disputants themselves 
must needs close in with this manner of arguing; 
and that on two accounts. 

First, in that this manner of arguing accommo- 
dates the difference between them, and salves the 
honour of both. For by this both appear to be in 
the right in the precise points they are contending 


for; and wrong only in something which they are 
both equally concerned for, viz. the supposition of 
the being of a triangular square, which is the thing 
supposed by consent between them. But chiefly. 

Secondly, in that the person who argues in this 
manner must be allowed to have the law of reason 
on his side, and may compel them, on their own 
principles, to assent to his conclusion. This is 
done by granting to each party his point, namely, 
that a triangular square is both triangular and 
square or quadrangular. This done, they have 
nothing to do but to answer each other's arguments, 
which it is here supposed they cannot do. By this 
therefore each grants the other to be in the right. 
So that for a stander-by to grant both to be in the 
right, is, in this case, a demonstration that they are 
both in the wrong; or in other words, that the 
thing they are disputing about is nothing at all. 

I have mentioned this possible^ rather than any 
actual^ instance of this kind, because I would give 
an instance wherein I may be sure to have every- 
one of my side. For certainly no one can doubt 
whether this be a good argument or not. 

A figure which is both triangular and quad- 
rangular, is not at all. 

But this is the case of a triangular square. 

Ergo^ there is no such figure. 

The force of this argument has never been dis- 
puted and I dare say never will : whereas to have 
put a case, which has been actually a matter of dis- 


pute, (of which sort I believe some might be 
named,) though equally conclusive, had yet been 
less plain and evident, because what has been, may 
be again; and so to some I had seemed to prove a 
notum by an ignotum. 

But now, in the present case, which is granted 
to be clear, I have nothing to do but to shew it to 
be parallel with that which I before mentioned. 
And this is an easy work. For (as in this possible 
one about the attributes of a triangular square there 
may be, so) there has actually been a dispute be- 
tween philosophers concerning one attribute, viz. 
the extent of an external world. One side, from 
the idea of its being external, has proved it to be 
infinite; the other, from the idea of its being cre- 
ated, &c. has proved it to be finite. Both suppose 
it to be external, both to be created. At the same 
time neither of them so much as pretends to answer 
the arguments on the side opposite to his own ; but 
only to justify his own point directly. And yet 
both will grant, that if an external world be both 
finite and infinite, it is the same thing as to say there 
is no such world. 

Well then, here I interpose, as before, and say, 

A world which is both finite and infinite, is 
not at all. 

But this is the case of an external world. 

ErgOj there is no such world. 

Here the honour of both is salved; here both 
the major and minor are their own; here a 


stander-by has the same advantage as before; so 
that what should hinder an easy, and even uni- 
versal, assent to the conclusion? 


FROM the maximum^ 1 come next to the min- 
imum naturale; or to the question about the divisi- 
bility of matter, quantity or extension. 

And here I affirm in like manner as before, 
that external matter is both finitely and infinitely 
divisible; and consequently, that there is no such 
thing as external matter. 

The argument in form stands thus. 

Matter which is both finitely and infinitely 
divisible, is not at all. 

But this is the case of external matter. 

Ergo, there is no such thing as external matter. 

The major of this argument is the first prin- 
ciple of science, it being the same in other words, 
as to say, that what is, is, or that it is impossible for 
a thing to be, and not be. For finite and infinite 
are just so to each other, as being, and not being. 
Finite is to be limited, infinite to be not limited. 
Or rather thus, infinite is to be absolute, finite, to 
be not absolute. So that it is as plainly impossible 
for the same thing to be both, as both to be, and not 


be at the same time, or in the same respect, &c. 
For both the respect, and time, and everything else, 
which is or can be made the condition of the truth 
of this principle, is also found in the major of the 
present argument; and consequently nothing can be 
more evident, than that what is, or in its idea im- 
plies both finite and infinite, is not at all. 

But now this I say is the case or implication 
of external matter, which is the minor or assump- 
tion of the same argument. 

External matter, as a creature, is evidently 
finite, and yet as external is as evidently infinite, in 
the number of its parts, or divisibility of its sub- 
stance; and yet nothing can be more absurd than 
such an infinite divisibility. 

But I need not deduce these things to any 
farther length, since no philosopher that I have 
ever met with has ever doubted of this matter, it 
being universally agreed that there is an invincible 
demonstration on both sides of this question of the 
divisibility of matter, so that I have nothing to do 
but to conclude that the thing or matter concerning 
which this question proceeds is a mere nothing, or 
contradiction; yet I expect to be told, that it has 
been the least of the thoughts of these philosophers 
to conclude as I here do, since not one has ever 
doubted of the existence of external matter. To 
this I answer. 

First, perhaps so; but who can help this? Is 
it not enough for this conclusion, that we are all 


agreed in the premises, and that there is nothing in 
the conclusion but what is in the premises? If in 
this case men will hold the premises, but deny the 
conclusion, this, at best, can be no better than inad- 
vertence; but to do this, after the conclusion is 
formally deduced, or the whole syllogism is laid 
before them, is no better than errant scepticism. 
And I must be excused if I contend not with an 
adversary of this sort. But secondly, one would 
think by the descriptions which they themselves 
are used to give of external matter, that all philoso- 
phers should be very ready to subscribe to this con- 
clusion for its own sake, as I have partly shewn 
already, and shall make appear more fully before 
I finish this work. 

Again, I expect to be told that the matter 
which I here speak of is conceived to be very dif- 
ferent from that concerning which philosophers 
have disputed, in the question about the divisibility 
of extension, and also in that about the extent of the 
world, (whether infinite or finite;) particularly 
that the matter or extension which they speak of is 
supposed to be visible, whereas that which I am 
speaking of is supposed to be invisible. I answer,"*' 

Perhaps so; I admit that the matter usually 
spoken of by philosophers is supposed by them to 
be visible, and that the matter which I am here 
speaking of is supposed, and also proved, to be in- 
visible. Nevertheless it must needs be granted that 
the matter spoken of by philosophers is supposed 


by them to be external ; if not, it must be because 
they hold that visible mater is not external, or, that 
there is no such thing as external matter; neither of 
which will, I believe, be easily granted, much less 
(which is necessary in this place) contended for 
against me. If then the matter they speak about 
is supposed by them to be external, this is all that I 
am concerned for at present; the question between 
us being only this simply, whether external matter 
exists, or not? or, as usually expressed in latin. An 
detur materia externa} No, say I; for it implies 
such and such contradictions, which destroy the be- 
ing of it, or render its existence impossible. Well ; 
and what will an adversary say to this? Will he 
deny that it implies these supposed contradictions? 
No; it is here supposed that all philosophers agree 
in affirming this point. Will he then deny the 
conclusion, whilst he affirms the premises? No, 
certainly; for this is formal scepticism, or no other 
than a denial of all truth, and reason, and conse- 
quence, at once. What remains then, but that we 
all conclude that external matter is a thing abso- 
lutely impossible? 

But you will say, to conclude this with con- 
sent, is to conclude the non-existence of visible mat- 
ter, since philosophers pretend to speak of no mat- 
ter but what they supposed to be visible. I an- 

First, why then I must conclude the same 
without consent; the damage one would think 


should not be great, provided it be allowed that my 
conclusion is true; and for this I appeal to the 
arguments by which I prove it, and which I sup- 
pose may be good, though they should happen to 
want consent. But, secondly, I deny that the mat- 
ter concerning the divisibility of which the ques- 
tion usually proceeds, is supposed by philosophers 
to be visible matter. This is evident from this, 
that the matter of which they speak, is, and must 
be, supposed to exist after ever so many divisions 
of it, even when it is become invisible, by the fre- 
quency of its being divided. 

It is not therefore visible, but external, matter, 
considered as external, of which philosophers have 
disputed ; and of which they say that it is both infi- 
nitely and finitely divisible and extended. And 
this idea of its being external, or independent (as 
to its existence simple) on any mind or perceptive 
faculty, is so absolutely necessary to both these 
questions, that neither of them has any appearance 
of being a question, upon the removal of this idea, 
and placing visible in its stead. For a visible 
world, or visible matter, considered as not external, 
exists plainly as visible, and consequently, as such, 
is extended, as such, is divisible. So that after this 
it carries a contradiction with it, so much as to en- 
quire whether it be extended, farther than it is seen 
to be extended, or divisible, farther than it is seen 
to exist. So that however by accident philoso- 
phers may have jumbled together the two ideas of 


visible and external, external is the idea only they 
are concerned with, and therefore it is external 
matter alone whose existence is encumbered with 
the forementioned contradictions; and so incum- 
bered, I say, as to make it necessary for us to con- 
clude that it is absolutely impossible there should 
be any such thing. But yet so partial have I found 
some towards an external world, that when nothing 
has been found, which could with any appearance 
be objected against the evidence of this and the 
foregoing argument, they have even drest up for- 
mal nothing into the shape of an objection: for I 
have been sometimes told (and that with an air of 
unusual gravity, as if the being of a real universe 
depended on their concern for it; nay, as if religion 
itself must fail if there be no external world,) that 
a thing may be, and must sometimes be, judged by 
us to be true, whose manner of existence we can- 
not comprehend. That of this sort are several 
articles of our christian faith, as for instance, the 
trinity in unity, the incarnation of the son of God, 
&c. which we believe to be true, though we ac- 
knowledge them to be mysteries, nay, and are con- 
tent to own, that with regard to our shallow rea- 
sonings, they are attended also with contradictions. 
Why then must we conclude that there is no exter- 
nal world, because of the contradictions which 
seem to attend the position of it? And to this pur- 
pose I find it said by a very judicious author*, 

•Art of thinking.SO 


that it is good to tire and fatigue the mind with 
such kind of difficulties (as the divisibility of mat- 
ter, &c.) in order to tame its presumption, and to 
make it less daring ever to oppose its feeble light 
to the truths proposed to it in the gospel, &c. I an- 

1. It is a sign indeed that our understandings 
are very weak and shallow, when such stufif as this 
shall not only pass for common sense, but even look 
like argument; and herein I confess my own as 
well as my neighbour's weakness. However, 

2. If we will reason at all, we cannot well 
have a more evident principle to go upon than this, 
that being is not not-being] that what is, is; or that 
it is impossible for the same thing both to be and 
not be. If so, we must either say that humility 
of judgment is no virtue, or that there is still room 
enough left for the exercises of it, whilst we hold 
this principle without the least doubt or wavering. 

3. It seems to me, that if we will reason at 
all, we should freely judge of whatsoever we per- 
ceive, so as first of all to agree in this, that whatso- 
ever we perceive to be, is: for though it were true 
indeed that there is no such thing as truth, or 
though the light of our understandings were ever 
so weak and feeble, yet till we have discovered this 
to be the case, and whilst we all agree to reason one 
with another, that must pass for the truth which we 
perceive, and that must pass for perceiving which 


at present we are capable of, be it what it will in 
the eye of a superior judgment or understanding. 
To boggle therefore at this, is not reasoning, but 
refusing to reason at all ; is not humility of judg- 
ment, but open and avowed scepticism? Is not an 
acknowledgment of the infinity of truth, but an 
evil, and profane, and atheistical, denial of it? 
And yet, 

4. Nothing more than this is requisite in the 
case before us: nothing, I say, but to affirm that 
being is, and not to deny our own evident percep- 
tions. The first of these is the resolution of the 
major, and the other of the minor, of both the fore- 
going arguments, whereby I demonstrate the im- 
possibility of an external world: for can anything 
be more evident than that finite and infinite are 
exclusive of each other; and that an idea which 
implies both is an impossibility in fact? And can 
we pretend to perceive any thing at all, when we 
pretend to doubt whether this is not the fact or 
implication of external matter? Should we doubt 
in this manner, if the subject spoken of were a cir- 
cular square, or triangular parallellogram? If not, 
I would fain know where our ignorance lies, which 
is the foundation of the objection? We are ig- 
norant indeed that there is any such thing as ex- 
ternal matter, (and one would think for this rea- 
son we should be so far from having any partial- 
ity towards the being of it, that we should conclude 
of course that there is no such thing in being,) 


but on the other hand we cannot so much as pre- 
tend ignorance of the premises by which this con- 
clusion is enforced. They are as evident as the 
light, and also (as far as ever I could inform my- 
self) universally acknowledged: where then is the 
difficulty, supposed by the forementioned author, 
in the question about the divisibility of matter, &c. 
wherewith it is so good to fatigue our presumptu- 
ous minds? Why, no where that I can think but 
here, viz. to conceive how it is possible that such 
a thing can exist, whose idea implies so manifest 
a contradiction : and if this be all the difficulty, it 
immediately vanishes, or loses its name, as soon as 
we suppose that there is no such thing or matter, 
or make this the question, whether there be any 
such thing, or not? For then, instead of difficulty, 
it becomes light and argument, and is no other 
than a demonstration of the impossibility of its ex- 
istence. But now, 

5. This does not in the least affect so as to 
become a parallel case with the doctrine of the 
trinity, &c. and that for several reasons. As, 

First, In that all who believe this doctrine are 
very ready to acknowledge (and that with reason 
too) that there is something incomprehensible in 
it; whereas in the demonstrations by which ex- 
ternal matter is proved to be both finite and in- 
finite, (viz. in extent and divisibility,) I have 
shewn already, no ignorance can be so much as 
pretended. Then again, 


Secondly, the articles of our faith concerning 
the trinity, &c. are, by consent, allowed to be ex- 
empt or particular cases, such as are not to be made 
precedents for our believing any other points, not- 
withstanding the difficulties which are seen to at- 
I tend them. And this. 

Thirdly, for a very good reason; namely, be- 
I cause as to the truth or fact of these doctrines we 
have an evidence irrefragable from another quar- 
ter, (which is at least equal to the evidence of 
reason,) viz. the word of God, which assures us of 
these things," whereas we are, or are supposed to 
be, wholly ignorant of the being or existence of an 
external world. And after all, 

Lastly, I utterly deny that there is any con- 
tradiction in the doctrines of the trinity, &c. even 
rationally considered, which circumstance makes 
this and the case of an external world to the last 
degree unparallel." But now, it is the parallell- 
ism of these points which is the thing contended 
for in the objection; and if so, where is the man 
that with a serious face will argue this matter with 
me? Who will say, I will not give up my judg- 
ment for an external, invisible, unknown world, 
notwithstanding the manifest contradictions which 
attend the mention of it, on any other terms but 
that of affirming or granting that there is a con- 
tradiction in the doctrine of the ever-blessed trin- 
ity? A socinian" or arian^* will not say this, it be- 
ing evident that the objection is very nonsense in 


their mouths; and sure I am that an orthodox per- 
son would be ashamed to say so: and yet, if it be 
not granted immediately that there is (as far as 
our understandings can dive or penetrate) a con- 
tradiction in the supposed articles of the trinity, 
&c. the objection (even on this account alone) is 
without all foundation, and is no other than an 
ignoratio elenchi, in other words, talking of chalk 
with those that talk of cheese. 


ANOTHER argument, whereby it is to be de- 
monstrated that there is no external world, is, that 
in such a world it is impossible there should be 
any such thing as motion; or rather (lest this 
should not seem absurdity enough to stop men's 
judgments in favour of such a world) it may be 
proved from the most simple and evident ideas, 
both that there may, and also that there cannot be, 
any motion in it. 

That there may be motion ^n an external 
world, is sufficiently evident from this, that it is 
supposed to be a creature : if so, I have an almighty 
power on my side to help forward the conclusion, 
namely, that it is moveable. And the argument in 
form will stand thus. 


The power of God is sufficient to move cre- 
ated matter, 

But external matter is supposed to be created ; 

Ergo^ the power of God is sufficient to move 

On the other hand, nothing is more evident 
than the impossibility of motion in an external 
world, considered as external. And that, first, in 
the whole; secondly, as to the several parts of it. 

I. As to the whole I argue thus; 

An infinite body or expansion is not capable 
of being moved by any power whatsoever. 

But an external world is infinite in expansion ; 

Ergo, an external world is absolutely im- 
moveable, or incapable of being moved by any 
power whatsoever. 

That an infinite expansion is absolutely im- 
moveable is too evident to be proved, unless this 
will be admitted as something more so; namely, 
that motion supposes a place possessed, and after- 
wards quitted for another, which yet is impossible 
and contradictory, when affirmed of an expansion 
or body actually infinite, which, as such, implies 
the possession of all place already; which circum- 
stance therefore makes the motion of such a body 
or world a fact absolutely impossible. And then, 

Secondly, that an external world, as such, is 
infinite in expansion. I appeal to those argu- 
ments whereby this proposition is usually proved 
by philosophers, and which are allowed by all to 


be demonstrative. I shall not here fill my paper 
with the mention of any one, because I suppose 
my reader does not need my information, and also 
because it will be time enough to do this, when I 
am advertized of an adversary. I shall only ob- 
serve this, (as believing it may be of some use to 
those who shall be at the pains of considering this 
matter,) namely, that whatever arguments have 
been used to prove the world to be infinite in ex- 
tent, will be found to have proceeded on the for- 
mal notion of its being external; whereas those 
which have been produced on the contradictory 
part have been altogether silent as to this idea, and 
have proceeded either on the idea of its being cre- 
ated, or on the absurdities attending the supposi- 
tion of infinite; by which proceeding it has still 
been granted, that notwithstanding these argu- 
ments and absurdities, an external world, as such, 
must needs be infinite. Since therefore an infinite 
world or expansion is not capable of being moved, 
I conclude that an external world, considered in 
the whole, is a being absolutely immoveable. 

II. In like manner it seems to be impossible 
that there should be any such thing as motion in an 
external world, considered in the several parts of 

For motion is supposed to be a translation of 
a body from one point or place to another. Now 
in such translation the space or line through which 
the body moved is supposed to pass, must be actu- 


ally divided into all its parts. This is supposed 
in the very idea of motion : but this all is infinite, 
and this infinite is absurd, and consequently it is 
equally so, that there should be any motion in an 
external world. 

That an external line or space is compounded 
of infinite parts or points, is evident by the same 
argument by which any body or part of matter 
(supposed to be external) is proved, and also al- 
lowed to be so ; namely, from the idea of its being 
quantity, body, or extension, and consequently di- 
visible, and not annihilable by division, which last 
is supposed in the idea of its being external. But 
then, on the other hand, to affirm that a line by mo- 
tion or otherwise is divided into infinite parts, is 
in my opinion to say all the absurdities in the world 
at once. For, 

First, This supposes a number actually in- 
finite, that is, a number to which no unit can be 
added, which is a number of which there is no 
sum total, that is, no number at all; consequently, 

Secondly, By this means the shortest motion 
becomes equal to the longest, since a motion to 
which nothing can be added must needs be as long 
as possible. This also, 

Thirdly, will make all motions equal in swift- 
ness, it being impossible for the swiftest in any 
stated time to do more than pass through infinite 
points, which yet the shortest is supposed to do. 
To which may be added, 


Lastly, That such motion as this, however 
short in duration, must yet be supposed to be a 
motion of all or infinite ages, since to every point 
of space or line through which any body is sup- 
posed to pass, there must be a point of time cor- 
respondent: but infinite points of time make an 
infinite time or duration, &c. 

These are some of the absurdities which at- 
tend the supposal of motion in an external world; 
whence I might argue simply, that such a world 
is impossible : but lest, as I said before, this should 
not be thought absurdity enough, that is, lest any 
one should admit such a world, notwithstanding 
the impossibility of motion in it, I rather chuse 
to defend and urge both parts of the contradiction, 
and conclude the impossibility of the being of such 
a world, from both the possibility and impossibil- 
ity of motion in it. The argument in form stands 

A world, in which it is both possible and im- 
possible that there should be any such thing as 
motion, is not at all ; 

But this is the case of an external world; 

Ergo, there is no such world. 

I suppose I need not here remind my reader 
that I have proved already, and that it is here sup- 
posed, that a visible or sensible world is not ex- 
ternal ; neither, if he has at all gone along with me 
in this discourse, need I undertake to shew that 
these absurdities about motion do not in the least 


affect a sensible or visible world, but only an ex- 
ternal world. Nevertheless, if upon a due perusal 
of what I have here written, this seems yet to be 
wanting, I s'hall be ready, as soon as called upon, 
to give my reader the best satisfaction I am capa- 
ble of as to this matter. 


AGAIN, it is with me an argument against 
the being of an external world, that there is no hy- 
pothesis of vision, that I can imagine, or ever heard 
of, on the supposition of such a world, but what 
in the fact or act of it implies an impossibility. 

I pretend not to have conversed with the writ- 
ings of philosophers; I am sure not enough with 
their persons, to know all the opinions there are or 
may have been about the method of vision ; and so 
must content myself with those that I have met 
with, which are only these two that at this time I 
can remember, or think worth the repeating. 

One is the Aristotelian, or old account, which 
supposes certain images to scale off from external 
objects, and fly in at the eye," &c. and the other 
is the Cartesian, or new hypothesis, which, instead 
of images, or resemblances of objects, scaling off 
from the objects themselves, accounts for vision 


from the reflection of subtle matter, (viz. that 
which proceeds in a direct line from the sun) from 
the object to the eye, &c. 

I stand not here to enquire which of these is 
true, or the most probable account of vision, on 
the supposition of an external world, being here 
concerned not in physics, but metaphysics, or an 
enquiry into simple, not hypothetical, truth. 
Neither am I concerned to consider these two hy- 
potheses apart, though they are so vastly different; 
for as different as they are upon the whole, they 
agree in all that which I am concerned to take 
notice of, namely, that the act of vision is the ef- 
fect of certain parts of matter, (whether images, 
or not,) which proceeding from the objects, re- 
spectively affect or act upon the optic nerve, &c. 

This is that which I take to be an impossibil- 
ity, or so attended with difficulties in the actu ex- 
ercito of it, as to be the nearest to an impossibility 
of any thing that we know of. For, 

First, these parts, as being material or ex- 
tended, must needs be impenetrable, that is, they 
must each possess a space by itself, and cannot 
(two or more, much more an infinite number of 
them) be crouded into one point, or the place of 
one. Nevertheless it is possible for a man's eye in 
one and the same point to see a vast and almost 
infinite number of objects which are in heaven and 
on earth. There is then a necessity that from each 
of these bodies there should be communicated or 


sent a line or train of subtle parts or images upon 
the one point of the eye, which, how it is possible 
to be in fact, I leave to be considered by all those 
who profess to know what they mean, when they 
say, bodies are impenetrable. 

Secondly, there is not any one point in the uni- 
verse, wherein the eye supposed or fixed, cannot 
perceive an innumerable company of objects. 
There is not then any one point in the universe, 
wherein lines of subtle matter, or images, from all 
these supposed innumerable objects, do not actu- 
ally concentre. If this is thought possible by any, 
I must be content to leave it with them, since noth- 
ing is more evident with me, than that the fact of 
this is utterly impossible. 

From these and such like absurdities, which 
attend every hypothesis of vision in an external 
world, I think I am bound to conclude that there 
is no such world. For it seems to me at present, 
that if there is an external world, one or other 
of these accounts of vision must needs be the true, 
that is fact. But as these appear to be impossible 
in fact, they seem to derive their impossibility upon 
the world which they belong to, or which supposes 

This, I say, will follow, till some other ac- 
count of vision, in an external world, be produced 
or named, which is not liable to these, or any like 
absurdities; or which even on the concession of 


an external world, may not plainly be demonstrat- 
ed to be false. 

In the mean time nothing of all this affects 
a sensible or visible world, supposed and granted 
to be not external. For then, any hypothesis of 
vision, which has no other falsehood in it, but what 
is derived upon it from the non-existence or im- 
possibility of an external world, will be the true 
hypothesis, or account of vision. For, by truth in 
this case, will then be meant no other than the will 
of God, the great author of nature, who giveth us 
such and such sensations, by such and such laws. 
And in this sense, a law or rule of vision, may be 
possible and even true in its cause, though it has 
no truth in itself, or is impossible in fact. And so, 
with this explanation, I am very ready to say, that 
the second, or Cartesian account is the true hy- 
pothesis of vision. For, though there be indeed 
no external world, yet such a world exists as far as 
it is possible; and it has been granted in the begin- 
ning, that it is according to the will of God, that 
the visible world should carry in it every charac- 
ter of being external, except the truth of fact, 
which is absolutely impossible. But the discovery 
of this last is within the province of metaphysics, 
which has to do only with simple being or exist- 
ence; whereas this about the method of vision is 
a question of a grosser size, and a much lower de- 
gree of abstraction; and its resolution is to be 
sought for only in the will of God, by which he 


willed his creatures, viz. material creatures. But 
in this will we see an external world, even an ex- 
ternal visible world, as I observed just now. So 
that this being the first will, must be first supposed, 
or taken for granted by consent. And then, I be- 
lieve, it will be found that this account of vision 
(as well as several parts of the same philosophy 
which have been objected against) will have lost 
all its difficulty, and must pass for true. 


AGAIN, as by an external world we are sup- 
posed to mean certain objects which do not exist 
in, or in dependance on, any mind or faculty of 
perception, at least of any creature ; so when I con- 
template the idea of such a self-subsisting being, 
I profess I am put hard to it to reconcile it with 
the character of a creature, or to discover how it 
can be understood to subsist at all on the mind, or 
will, or power, of God, who is supposed to be the 
creator of it.^^ For, 

First, as to its being simply^ it is past my skill 
to distinguish it from being simple, absolute, or 
universal. We are taught indeed to say, that ev- 
ery creature of God needs the same power to pre- 
serve, which was necessary to the creation of it;" 


and christian philosophers are generally agreed, 
that this power of God is so necessary to the pres- 
ervation, or continued being, of every creature as 
such, that it must return to its primitive nothing, 
merely from the abstraction or withdrawing of this 

But do we understand what we say, when we 
apply this doctrine to an external world, either in 
the whole, or in the several parts of it? We see it 
indeed in the idea which we have of creature, and 
in the absurdities which attend an absolute exist- 
ence applied to anything but God alone; but do 
we see any such dependance as to being or existence 
in the idea, which we conceive of an external 
world? Consider but this house, this tree, this any- 
thing amongst the objects of an external world, or 
of the visible world, supposed (as usual) to be 
external, is there any sign of weakness or depend- 
ance in any of these things considered by us in this 
view? Will not an external house stand or be, un- 
less a foreign power continue to support it? Or 
does it seem to us to be any thing like those things 
of which we speak, when we speak of certain be- 
ings which have no subsistence of their own, no 
truth of being but in relation or resemblance, and 
which would cease to be, barely by an abstraction 
of a supporting power, which is different from the 
things themselves? A house indeed may be a good, 
or useful, or convenient house, only as it stands 
related to an idea in the mind, or intellect of its 


maker, and may be said to stand in its present 
form, only as supported by certain foreign causes; 
but we are speaking here, not of the external form, 
but of the simple truth or being of things; and 
even in this respect we say that things subsist al- 
together by a relation to the intellect, or in de- 
pendance on the will of God. But I say, does this 
seem to be the case of an external piece of matter? 
Do we conceive this as having no absolute being, 
or substance of its own? as a mere nothing, but by 
resemblance, and what would cease to be on the 
instant of the cessation of God's will to preserve 
it? I know what another may answer to all these 
questions, and I cannot help it, let men answer 
what they will ; but still I must insist and say, that 
if another will affirm, that he thus conceives of 
external matter, he must teach me to do the same 
from some other idea besides that of creature, 
namely, from the consideration of the thing itself \ 
or else I must conclude that he affirms this, not be- 
cause he understands any thing of the matter spok- 
en of, but because the truth in general forces him to 
say this. But this is the chief thing which makes 
against his point. For to say that external matter 
exists wholly on the will of God, because this is 
the condition of a creaturely existence, is only to 
say in general, that the existence of a creature is 
necessarily thus dependant. But this is what I af- 
firm; and hence arises the difficulty, viz. how we 
can conceive external matter to exist by this rule, 


or how to reconcile the absolute and stable exist- 
ence of matter supposed to be external, with this 
necessary and indispensable character of a creat- 
ure's being. My business is to deny that there is 
any such creature for this reason, because it carries 
in the idea of it an absolute kind of existence, 
which no creature is capable of; and for this I ap- 
peal to the judgment of all others; so that if an- 
other will yet contend that there is any such creat- 
ure, he must not argue with me that it does and 
must so exist because it is a creature, for this is 
plainly begging the question; but must make an- 
swer on the other hand, how a creature, which is 
and must be understood to have a self-subsistence, 
or a proper substance of its own, can be said to ex- 
ist, whilst it is acknowledged, as before, that every 
creature, as such, exists altogether in dependance 
on the power or will of God. This is the difficulty 
which attends an external world, considered in its 
several parts. And this. 

Secondly, is rather increased, if we consider 
it in the whole; for then nothing but its expansion 
comes under consideration. And this is plainly 
infinite. And if not infinite nothing^ must be in- 
finite something^ that is, being or substance. But 
is there any thing in this idea which squares with 
the indispensable character of a creature? For 
this I appeal to every one's idea of an expanded 
universe, particularly to theirs, who (if I may 
guess,) are not a few, who from a consideration of 


the firm and substantial existence of the visible 
world, supposed by them to be external, think 
themselves compelled to believe, that simple space 
or extension is the very substance of God himself; 
and therefore how to conceive it possible that such 
a thing should exist, which on one hand we are 
compelled to call a creature, and on the other can- 
not forbear to understand as God, I leave to be 
explained by those who yet retain any fondness for 
such a thing. Thus much of the existence simple 
of an external world; I come next to consider the 
unity which it implies. 

Here then I observe, that an external world 
implies in it all the unity, which any being what- 
soever, which universal being, which God himself 
is capable of. 

Consider it in its whole, and it has the unity 
of infinity. It is one alone, and is absolutely in- 
capable of being multiplied by any power what- 
soever; which is as much as can be said of God, 
and even more than they have a right to say, who 
consider him, not as universal, but some particular 
being. Consider it in its several parts, or bodies 
included in it, and each particle of matter has such 
a unity in, or identity with itself, as I think should 
not be ascribed to any thing but God, who alone 
is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever. Again, 
I consider, that an external world, is independent 
on the will of God, considered in its expansion, 
which will and must be infinite, whether God 


pleases to make, or will it to be so or not, suppos- 
ing only that he wills to produce or make any the 
least extent, or that any the least part or extent is 
made, or in being. 

As for instance, let God be supposed to will 
the being of a certain cubical part of matter or ex- 
tension, about the bigness of a common die. This, 
I say, is impossible in fact, and this draws another 
impossibility after it, which is, that by this the will 
of God is over-ruled or frustrated by the work of 
his own hands. For what should bound this cub- 
ical extent? It must be something, or nothing. If 
nothing, it is plainly infinite ; if something, it must 
be matter or extension ; and then the same question 
returns, and will infinitely return, or be never sat- 
isfied under an extent actually infinite. But this is 
an independency of being, which I think can be- 
long to no creature, it being the same with that 
which we use to call necessary existence. I con- 
clude therefore that there is no such creature as 
an external world. 

Lastly, much the same sort of difficulty occurs 
if we consider it in not being, after it has been sup- 
posed to exist. That God can annihilate every 
creature which he has made, is, I think, a maxim 
undisputed by any; if so, I think it plainly follows, 
that that which in its idea implies an utter impos- 
sibility of being annihilated, is a thing in fact im- 
possible. But this, I say, is the case or implication 
of an external world. This is evident from the 


foregoing article, which shews the absolute neces- 
sity of its being infinite, on the supposition of the 
being of but the least part or particle of it: for 
certainly if nothing less than infinite can exist, or 
be made, no part of this infinite can be unmade, or 
annihilated. And therefore though in words we 
may say that God can annihilate any part of it, 
yet we utter that in words, of which we can have 
no conception, but rather the contrary to it. For 
annihilate it in supposition as often as you will, 
yet still it returns upon you ; and whilst you would 
conceive it as nothing, it becomes something to 
you against your will ; and it is impossible to think 
otherwise, whatever we may say. 

I believe I should lose my time and pains if 
I should attempt in this place to shew, that the 
supposition of a visible, which is not an external 
world, is attended with none of these difficulties. 
This would be a thankless office with all those who 
are not yet convinced, but that an external world 
may yet stand, notwithstanding these pretended 
difficulties; and it would be an injury to those that 
are, as preventing them in certain pleasant and 
very easy considerations. And so I leave it to take 
its chance with all my readers in common. 



ANOTHER difficulty which siill attends the 
notion of an external world, is, that if any such 


world exists, there seems to be no possibility of con- 
ceiving, but that God himself must be extended 
with it. 

This I take to be absurdity enough in reason, 
to hinder us from supposing any such world. But 
so unfortunate are the stars of this idol of our ini- 
agination, that it is as much impossible, on another 
account, that it should exist, though this were no 
absurdity, or though it were supposed and allowed 
that God himself were extended. 

I suppose then in the first place, that God is 
not extended. If so, I say there can be no external 
world. For if there be an external world, and if 
it be a creature, we must suppose that God is every 
where present in, and with it; for he is supposed 
to preserve and do every thing that is done in it. 
To deny this, is to shut him out of the universe, 
even altogether to deny his being. On the con- 
trary, to affirm that he is thus present with every 
part and particle of it, is to make him co-extended, 
which is contrary to the supposition. 

Yes, it may be said, God is extended, and 
consequently there may be an external world, not- 
withstanding this dilemma. I answer, 

Secondly, be it so that he is extended, (to 
humour a corrupt and absurd itch of argumenta- 
tion,) yet this avails nothing towards the being of 
an external world, but directly towards the non- 
existence of it. For if God be extended, and as we 
must also say infinitely extended, where shall we 


find room for an external world? Can two ex- 
tensions, infinite extensions, coexist? This is ev- 
idently impossible. So that all the choice we are 
left to is to acknowledge God or an external world ; 
which, I think, is a choice we need not long be de- 
liberating upon. I conclude, therefore, that if 
God is, there is no external world. 

I know but one way of answering this argu- 
ment, and that is, to affirm that an external world 
is God himself, and not a creature of God. But 
till some one shall be so hardy as to appear publicly 
in defence of this, I shall think it but a loss of time 
and pains to consider of or debate it. 


I promised in some part of argument IV. that 
I would consider farther of what philosophers say 
of external matter'^ and here I intend to be as good 
as my word.^^ 

I have shewn in my former part of this treat- 
ise,* that the matter so much disputed of by phil- 
osophers is not understood by them to be visible. 
This of itself is an argument that they had, or 
could pretend to have, but a very faint and imper- 
fect idea of the thing they were speaking of. Ac- 

•Chap. I. Sect ii. Argument 5. 


cordingly, I shall here proceed to shew, that they 
neither did, nor could, pretend to mean anything 
at all by it. And, 

First, for the definitions which they have de- 
livered to us of matter, Aristotle defines it thus. 

vAiy aiTiov cc ov yiverai Tt. 

Materia est ex qua res, vel aliquod est. This, by 
no inconsiderable philosopher, t is called optima 
definitio materiae. And the same is by Baronius 
(Metaph. page 172.) defined thus. Materia sub- 
stantialis est substantia incompleta in qua forma 
aliqua substantialis existit. And sometimes again 
thus, Substantia incompleta capax formae. 

These are all the definitions that I shall men- 
tion, and these I suppose are sufficient to convince 
us that they meant nothing at all by the matter 
which they here speak of. For what is there in 
either of these definitions besides the indeterminate 
notion of being in general, that is, something, but 
nobody knows what, or whether it be any thing at 
all or no. This I say is all that I can make or 
understand by it; and this amounts to the same, as 
if they had told us in plain words, that they mean 
nothing at all. But this. 

Secondly, they tell us yet more expressly in 
the descriptions and characters which they give of 

As for instance Baronius* delivers it as the 
common sense of all philosophers, that Materia 

t Scheib. Met Cap. 22, 158. 
•Met p. 189. 


non est in praeJicamento, and that non habet pro- 
prie dictum genus. This is the same as if he had 
told us in express words, that the most they mean 
by it, is being indefinite, or something, but they 
know not what. For that which is not in the pre- 
dicaments, is allowed to be neither substance nor 
accident, (unless it be God, or universal being,) 
and what is neither of these is confessedly nothing 
at all. 

Again, St. Austin^" is always quoted by phil- 
osophers for his description of matter, as an ex- 
planation of the common meaning, and it is thus 
expressed. t Materia est infima omnium rerum, 
& prope nihil. 

Much after the same manner it is described by 
Porphyry,^^ X Materia prima ex se est incorporea, 
neq; intellectus, neq; anima, neq; aliud secundum 
se vivens, informis, immutabilis, infinita, impotens, 
qua propter neque ens, sed verum non-ens. But 
this is a little more than prope nihil, and I sup- 
pose may be said to amount fully to the sense of 
the English word, nothing. 

In like manner Aristotle himself, who has 
given almost all other philosophers their cue, is 
for nothing better known than for his most intel- 
ligible description of substantial matter. He calls 
it nee quid, nee quale, nee quantum ;" to which I 
think I may fairly add, nee aliquid, as the proper 

f L. 12. Confess, cap. 7. 
^ Lib. de Occasionib. c. 21. 


sense and consequence of this description. Nay, 
to confirm this as the true interpretation and de- 
sign of his words, I have many times seen him 
quoted by his followers, for saying positively that 
materia est non ens; one instance of which I par- 
ticularly remember, viz. Scheibl. Metaph. Cap. 
22. 167. 

Perhaps so, you will say, but yet all philoso- 
phers are agreed in the being of it, and all argue 
it to be, or to have a real existence. I answer. 

First, If they will contradict their own po- 
sitions, as it is not in my power to help, so it is hard 
that I should sufiFer for it. But, secondly, how is it 
that they argue the existence of matter? Do they 
argue it with a supposed adversary, or only with 
themselves? If with themselves only, this is noth- 
ing at all ; for in this case they may have the ques- 
tion for asking; and so this kind of arguing is only 
grimace and banter. But if they argue it with an 
adversary, who is supposed to doubt it, I am this 
adversary, and let their reasons be produced. 

In the mean time I affirm that they argue 
only with themselves ; that is, they grant themselves 
the question, upon all occasions, and whensoever 
they please. 

Their arguments are such as these, some of 
which I have mentioned already.* 

Matter is, or exists, say they, because it is, or 
is supposed to be created. Here the adversary, if 

• Part I. Chap. i. Sect II. Arg. VI. 


any, is supposed to grant that it is created, but yet 
to doubt whether it is, or exists, or not. That is, 
he is supposed to be a drivelling fool, or no adver- 
sary at all, which is plainly the case. 

Again, matter is, or exists, because it is sup- 
posed to be part of a real compositum. This is the 
very same case as before. 

For surely whoever can be brought to grant 
that its a real part of a compositum, cannot be 
supposed to doubt whether it exists or not. 

Again, if matter were nothing, it could do 
nothing, it could not be the subject of generation 
and corruption; but this last is supposed (thanks 
to the kind opponent!) Ergo, matter is not noth- 

Again, (saith Christopher Schiebler, Cap. 15, 
45.) Materia habet essentiam, quia ens est. And 
with the same ease you are told by all philosophers 
together, that ens est quod habet essentiam. This 
is round about our coal-fire, in other words, argu- 
ing in a circle, or no arguing at all. 

Again, (Cap. 22, 167.) he puts the question 
simply, an materia sit ens. And this is the reso- 
lution of it. If matter were not ens, it would be 
the same thing to say, that any thing fit ex nihilo, 
as ex materia. And again, it must be something, 
because something is constituted of it. 

These and such like (for I am tired with re- 
peating them) are the mighty arguments by which 
philosophers demonstrate the being of external 


matter. If you will take their words you may; for 
I think nothing is more evident than that this is all 
you have to do in the case; unless (which I think 
much more advisable) you will chuse to believe 
with me, that they never designed any other than 
to amuse the ignorant, but yet to give every intelli- 
gent reader an item, by this procedure, that the 
matter they are speaking about is nothing at all. 

If so, I have a vast authority on my side: 
which, if not sufficient to inforce the conclusion 
simply with all readers, because some there may be 
who have but little opinion of this kind of author- 
ity, yet with all must have this effect, to remove the 
prejudice which may lie on their minds against 
this my conclusion, on the account of its appearing 
strangeness and novelty. And though some authors 
on certain subjects may have good reason rather to 
cherish than lessen the opinion of their novelty, yet 
considering all things, if I were certain to have re- 
moved what these are supposed to desire by any- 
thing I have said in the present chapter, I am per- 
suaded it would avail me more in the event, than 
ten thousand the most evident demonstrations with- 
out it. And indeed it was the prospect of this ef- 
fect alone, which induced me to number this chap- 
ter amongst my arguments against the being of an 
external world. 



Objections answered. 

BUT now it is time to attend to what may be 
urged on the other size, viz. in favour of an ex- 
ternal world. 

But what favour can belong, or be due, to that 
which is, or can be of no use, if it were in being, 
which is all over contradiction, which is contrary 
to the truth and being of God, and after all is sup- 
posed to be utterly unknown? Who would ever 
attempt to form an argument for the being of such 
a thing as this? For as unknown, it must be sup- 
posed to be nothing, even by those who are pre- 
paring themselves to prove that it is something. So 
that well may all particular objections be said to be 
false or insufficient, when it is against the suppo- 
sition of the question to suppose any objections at 
all, or but the possibility of an objection. 

Nevertheless, where men are thoroughly in- 
clined to hold fast their point, notwithstanding all 
the evidence in the world to the contrary, there is a 
possible room for two or three things, which, for 
aught I know, some persons may call objections. 
And they are these that follow. 

Objection I. 

Does not the scripture assure us of the exist- 
ence of an external world." 



1. Not as I know of. If it does, you would 
do well to name to me that text wherein this is re- 
vealed to us; otherwise, I have no way to answer 
this objection but that of taking into consideration 
every sentence in the whole bible, which I am sure 
you will believe is more than I need do. But, 

2. To do this objection all the right I can, I 
will suppose a passage or two in the word of God; 
and I should think, if such a one is any where to be 
found, it will be in the first chapter of Genesis, 
where Moses speaks of the creation of the material 
world.^'* Here it is said, that in the beginning God 
created the heaven and the earthy and also that all 
material things were made some days before the 
first man, and so cannot be said to exist only rela- 
tively on the mind of man.^^ To this I answer, 

I. This objection from scripture is taken 
from Mr. Malebranche,*^^ and is his last resort on 
which to found the being of an external world. 
But then the external world, which he contends 
for, is proved by him before, and here supposed 
to be no object of sense, and consequently invisible. 
And it was for this reason (it being an objection 
peculiar to this author) that I deferred the men- 
tion of it to this place, where also an external world 
is supposed to be invisible. Here then my answer 
to the author is this, that the tendency of this pas- 

• Search's Illustr. Tom. ii. p. 114. Taylor's Translation. Ed. 2. 


sage of scripture is not to prove the being of an 
external (supposed to be an) invisible world, but 
the external being or existence of the visible world : 
for it is here supposed that the visible world existed 
before the first man saw it. But this is as much 
against himself as me, and therefore is no objection, 
as coming from that quarter. But another may 
think that there is an answer due, not only to the 
author, but to the objection itself. Be it so, I an- 

2. That it seems to me there is nothing in this 
passage which affirms the visible world to be exter- 
nal. And my reason for this is, because there is 
nothing in it but what is very consistent with be- 
lieving that the visible world is not external. 

For first, is it said that God created the heaven 
and earth? Meaning by it, that all those things 
which either we or any other intelligent creatures 
behold, are not their own causes of existence, or of 
an existence necessary, but receive and derive their 
whole being from another cause, viz. God. Is any 
thing of this denied in consequence of affirming, 
that a visible object, as such, is not external? Or, 
does this make it to be of necessary existence, or to 
be its own cause, or to be the effect of any thing but 
the will of God, who after the counsel of his own 
will gives or causes such and such sensations in us? 
Or, secondly, is there (as some learned interpreters 
have thought) a particular sense and meaning in 
the words, in principto, 'Ev apx^i or n-tfKia ** 


if one design of the text was to tell us, that God the 
father made all things by and through, and in, his 
Son, who is frequently in scripture characterized 
by this, as by a proper name? If so, is it incon- 
sistent with this doctrine to hold that a visible ob- 
ject, as such, is not external to the mind or faculty 
which perceives it? So far from this, that this 
doctrine seems to be intelligible only on this hy- 
pothesis; and I think I have shewn already, that 
an external world, as such, (whether visible or in- 
visible) is of too absolute an existence to exist only 
in the mind or will of God, or the son of God, as 
every creature is said to do in this text. So that if 
this text, thus interpreted, proves any thing to the 
present purpose, it proves the contrary to that 
which it is alledged for. Or, thirdly, is it said, that 
the visible world existed, or had its being, before 
the first man Adam was created? And did it not 
thus exist when Apx^ beheld it, when it had past 
the Wisdom, and was come into the will of God? 
Or might not the angels see and live in it, (who 
knows how long) before the man whom we call 
Adam was produced into being? Or, lastly, must 
all this go for nothing because of the little syllable 
the^ which is prefixed in the text to the words 
heaven and earth? as if by this we were obliged 
to understand an absolute and strict identity be- 
tween the visible world, considered in the will of 
God, or in the minds of the angels, and that which 
was afterwards perceived by Adam? This is a 


slender thread indeed, whereon to hang the whole 
weight of an universe. But must I myself be for- 
bid the use of this important word the^ because I 
hold that a visible object is not external; and be- 
cause in consequence of this position there will be 
found only an identity of similitude between the 
visible world which God made in the beginning, 
and that which Adam had a sensation of; and con- 
sequently between that which Peter and that which 
John sees, at the same or different times? Must I 
never say that I have seen the sun, because on my 
hypothesis the sun which I am supposed to see, is 
not the same strictly with that which God seeth, or 
which is seen by another person? And must I 
for this reason never use the expression of the vis- 
ible world, the heaven and earth, &c.? ^^ But then, 
will that be denied to God, which is and must be 
allowed to me? Where then is there so much as 
an appearance of an objection in the text before us? 
For my part, I can see none, either in this, or any 
other that I know of, in the word of God, but what 
is fully answered in what I have replied to this; 
and therefore cannot but believe that it would be 
time ill spent to suppose or name any other. Yet, 
thirdly, others I might very easily name, such as 
those which speak of the apparition of angels, of 
several miracles, particularly that of coming into a 
room whilst the doors were shut, &c. which sup- 
pose the visible world to be not external ; and this 
would be turning the objector's cannon against 


himself. But I shall spare my reader, the objector 
and myself, and so add no more particulars to my 
answer in this place. 

Objection 2. 

Is there no allowance due or to be made to 
that strong and natural inclination which all men 
have to believe an external world? 

Answer i. 

You may remember the mention of this ob- 
jection * before, where I told you it is the argu- 
ment by which Mr. Des Cartes satisfied himself 
of the existence of an external world.^* 

In my answer to it I supposed two things, 
either that by an external world was meant the 
being of a world, which, as external, is supposed 
to be invisible, or the external being of the visible 
world. To the last of these meanings I have given 
in my answer, which my reader either does or may 
recollect at pleasure. I am now (according to my 
promise in that place) to make answer to this 
objection in the first of the forementioned mean- 

This, in all right and reason, should be the 
true intent and meaning of this great philosopher. 
For my own part I think I could very easily shew, 
that either he must mean this, or be inconsistent 
with himself, which is to mean nothing at all ; and 

• Part I. Chap. II. Objection 3. 


if so, the objection is answered before any part of 
it is considered. But I need not be at the trouble 
of entering into this inquiry, it being sufficient in 
this place to shew, that in the sense supposed it has 
not the reality, or so much as the pretence, of being 
an argument. And that is done in a word, by de- 
nying the supposition of it, which is, that we have 
any the least inclination to believe the existence 
of an external world, supposed to be invisible. 
This is evident at first sight, and yet this alone 
destroys the whole force of the objection. "Strange! 
That a person of Mr. Des Cartes's sagacity should 
be found in so plain and palpable an oversight; 
and that the late ingenious Mr. Norris should 
be found treading in the same track, and that too 
upon a solemn and particular disquisition of this 
matter.^' That whilst on one hand they contend 
against the common inclination or prejudice of 
mankind, that the visible world is not external, 
they should yet appeal to this same common in- 
clination for the truth or being of an external 
world, which on their principles must be said to be 
invisible, and for which therefore (they must needs 
have known if they had considered it) there neither 
is, nor can be, any kind of inclination." 

Well, you will say, but is there no allowance 
due to the natural inclination, which we all have 
to believe that the visible world is external, and 
consequently this way, that there is an external 


Answer 2. 

Yes certainly, provided you believe the truth, 
viz. that there neither is, nor can be, any such thing 
as an external world, you may freely make use 
of the common language, (which is a creature of 
God, and which by his messengers, and even in 
his own person, he has sanctified to us the use of, 
if we believe the truth,) notwithstanding that there 
is scarce a word in it, but what supposes the being 
of an external world, or that the visible world is 
external. It is the truth which makes us free, and 
they only are in bondage who are ignorant of the 
truth, or refuse to admit it. If therefore it be true, 
that there is no external world, common language 
is indeed extremely corrupt; but they only are in- 
volved in this corruption who know not this truth, 
or deny the evidence of it. And the same argu- 
ments by which it is demonstrated to be a truth, 
prove the use of all language unclean to such as 
these. For such are servants to the power of a 
corrupt language, and know not their right of free- 
dom from it; and this makes them guilty of all the 
errors which it supposes. Whereas those who 
know and believe this truth, are free to use any 
language, or way of speaking, wherein this truth 
is not formally or directly contradicted, without 
being accountable for the corruption of human 
language. Thus we believe the circumvolution of 
the earth, and the central rest of the sun, according 


to the Copernican system; but yet so much is due 
to the natural inclination which we all find in our- 
selves to believe the contrary, as to excuse and jus- 
tify us in the use of a language altogether Ptole- 
maic. Thus we know and can demonstrate, that 
the light which we behold is not any property or 
affection of the sun, supposed to be in the heavens ; 
but an affection in, or belonging to ourselves; yet 
we are altogether free from the error of supposing 
the contrary, though we often say that the sun is 
luminous, or words to that effect. 

Thus again, when the sun shines full in our 
face, though we know for certain that the pain we 
feel is not in our eye, but only in our souls, yet so 
much is due to the natural inclination, whereby we 
judge that all sensations are in our bodies, that we 
are free on a thousand occasions to suppose the con- 
trary in words, as we always do when we say, that 
the light of the sun affllicts our eyes, or makes them 
sore, that our head or tooth aches, or other words 
to this purpose. Thus lastly, (to go but one step 
higher, even that one which mounts us into that 
region of truth or abstraction which the present 
theory supposes us to be in,) though we know (as 
by this time I hope we know) that an external 
world is a being absolutely impossible; yet^ or 
rather because we know this, we are, on infinite 
occasions, free from the error on the contrary side, 
though we use a language which continually sup- 
poses the visible world to be external. This I say 


is the liberty of believing the truth, and this truth 
thus believed, does so fully sanctify even a corrupt 
and erroneous language to our use, as to make it 
our duty^ as well as liberty^ (even a debt we owe 
to the great Author of Nature and of language,) 
to express our minds to each other in a way suitable 
to our present state, though both our nature and 
our language suggest and suppose the contrary 
to this truth. And now I hope this objection is 
fully answered. But I expect another in its place, 
(which is near about the same as to force and con- 
sequence,) and that is to be told. 

Objection 3. 

That the late judicious Mr. Norris, who (in 
his Ideal World, vol. i. chap, iv.) purposely con- 
sidered this question of an external world, was yet 
so far from concluding as I have here done, that 
he declares it to be no other than errant scepticism 
to make a serious doubt or question of its existence. 


I have chosen to place this in the form of an 
objection, that I may seem rather to defend my- 
self, than voluntarily oppose this author, for whose 
writings and memory I have a great esteem. But 
what shall I say in this case? Must I give up all 
the arguments by which I have shewn that there is 
no external world, in complaisance to this cen- 


sure, because it is the great and excellent Mr. Nor- 
ris's? But has he supported this saying by any 
arguments in favour of that which he calls it scep- 
ticism to doubt of? Has he proved an external 
world to be of the number of those evident truths 
which are of no reasonable doubt, nor to be seri- 
ously questioned by any sober understanding? Or 
so much as pretended to answer any argument al- 
ledged for its non-existence? No, not a word of 
this is to be found in the whole chapter, unless the 
argument from inclination, which is the subject of 
the former objection, will be here named against 
me. Well then, and must this too pass for an ar- 
gument, notwithstanding that I have shewn the 
weakness of it? And so, must all that I have 
hitherto contended for, submit to the power of this 
great authority, on peril of my being thought a 

But is not this the way to be betrayed into the 
very dregs of scepticism, to make a doubt of one's 
own most evident perceptions for fear of this im- 
putation? Or can a man give better proof that 
this does not belong to him, than by putting (as I 
have all along done) his cause or assertion on the 
issue of a fair debate on plain reason and argu- 
ment? And can anything be a plainer mark of 
scepticism than to refuse to stand, or be concluded 
by this issue, appealing from thence to judgment 
or authority? This is what I said from the begin- 
ning, and I have shewed it, I think, in every in- 


stance of an objection since, that my adversary all 
along is no other than prejudice, which is formal 
scepticism; and yet nothing has been so constantly 
charged against myself as this very imputation. 
And it is this alone which has made it so consider- 
able with me, as to set formally about an answer 
to it. 

But to speak particularly to the author's cen- 
sure, with which we are at present concerned. 

Is it so much as true in fact that he has said 
any such thing as is affirmed in the objection? 
This perhaps even a sceptic will contend fairly 
with me ; for facts are the things they are observed 
to be most fond of. Well, let this be tried (as it 
ought to be) by his own words. 

There are two, and as I remember but two, 
passages in this chapter which speak at all to this 
purpose. One is page i88, the other 205. In the 
first of these I immediately find these words. 
"Much less would I be suspected of indulging a 
sceptical humour, under colour of philosophical 
doubting, to such an extravagance as to make any 
serious question of that general and collective ob- 
ject of sense a natural world:" the other is this; 
"But as to the existence of bodies, though it be a 
thing of no reasonable doubt, nor to be seriously 
questioned by any sober understanding," &c. 

Here the thing that is not to be doubted of, 
(at the hazard of the sobriety of our understand- 
ing, and upon peril of scepticism,) is the existence 


of bodies, the existence of a natural world, which 
is supposed to be the object of sense. Well, and 
what is this to me? Have I been doubting of the 
existence of bodies? Or of the natural or sensible 
world? Let the meanest of my readers be my wit- 
ness, that I have been so far from doubting of any 
thing of this, that I have even contended on all oc- 
casions that nothing is, or can be, more evident than 
the existence of bodies, or of a sensible world. 
Have I repeated the same thing some hundreds 
of times, and yet still is there need to have it ob- 
served, that an external world is the moot point 
between us? That, not the existence^ but the extra- 
existence of the sensible world, is the point I have 
been arguing against? And that, not a natural, 
supposed to be a sensible^ world, but an external 
world, as such, is impossible? But there is not a 
word of an external world in the two sentences 
before-mentioned; and therefore nothing in the 
least against the conclusion which I am concerned 
for. '' 

True, you will say, but this was only a mistake 
in the manner of expressing it; for that the whole 
drift and argument of this chapter supposes the 
subject to be an external world. I answer. 

Right; that is the thing I have been all this 
while expecting, viz. a little of his argument in 
the place of his authority; and you see this we must 
come to before there can be any decision. 

But alas! to what purpose? For I find these 


words in the very title of his chapter, viz. That 
the existence of the intelligible is more certain 
than that of the natural and sensible world. This 
destroys, and doubly destroys, all again. For, 
first, here he speaks not of an external, but sensi- 
ble, world; and of this, not of its external existence, 
which is the point I have been arguing against; 
but simply of its eixstence, which is the point I 
have been arguing for. And yet, 

Secondly, His end proposed is not to aggra- 
vate, but lessen, its certainty: and this is the drift 
and argument of the whole chapter, at least of 
about thirty pages of it; the rest being employed 
in a digression concerning the comparative cer- 
tainty of faith and reason. 

But is this the main design and purpose of 
this chapter, to lessen the evidence of an external 
world? To shew, (as he plainly does, and for 
which I refer my reader, to shew, I say) that 
neither reason, nor sense, nor revelation, is suffi- 
cient to assure us of the existence of any such 
things : nay, that the argument used by Des Cartes, 
before mentioned, ^^ in which he places his last 
resort, falls short, and is deficient, for which we 
have his own express words in the 208th page? 
And can that same author say, in the midst of all 
this, that the existence of an external world is a 
thing of no reasonable doubt, nor to be seriously 
questioned by any sober understanding, &c. sure- 
ly it could be no mistake that he omitted the word 


external, unless he designed to question his own 
understanding, and formally pronounce himself a 

Well, you will say, but it is a matter of fact 
that he has argued against something. I answer, 
he has so, for it is evident to demonstration that he 
has argued against himself; and not only so, but 
also as sceptically as is possible. 

For after all nothing is more evident, than that 
his censure and arguments proceed upon the very 
same subject; and that is, not the external exist- 
ence, but the existence simple of the natural world. 
This natural world is sometimes by him called 
bodies^ sometimes the visible or sensible world: 
being about to aggrandize the evidence, or ob- 
jective certainty, as to us, of his intelligible or ideal 
world, he endeavours to shew, that it is much more 
certain to us than the existence of the natural, or 
sensible^ world ; and that because we have, 

1. More, 

2. Better, reasons to assure us of its existence. 
These are his very words, as may be seen in 

the 1 88th page, even in that very page in which is 
found the censure on all those who so much as offer 
to question the existence of the natural world. 
But now the fact is, that he does question its ex- 
istence both here, and throughout the whole course 
of this chapter. What can be more evidently in- 
consistent, more evidently sceptical, than this man- 
ner of proceeding? What! Doubt of the exist- 


ence of bodies, sensible bodies? Well may this be 
called indulging a sceptical humour under the 
colour of philosophical doubting. And is this so 
called too by the very person who does it? This 
is not only to be guilty of scepticism himself, but 
also to be self-condemned. 

The sum of this whole matter is this: if, by the 
existence of the sensible world, Mr. Norris, in this 
censure, is said to mean not the existence simple, 
but the extra-existence of it, his arguments direct- 
ly contradict his censure, which is a full answer to 
his authority in this matter. If on the other hand 
he be said to mean as he himself speaks, this is, 
first of all, nothing at all to me, who doubt not of 
the existence, but only of the extra-existence, of the 
sensible world: then, secondly, he is in this as much 
contrary to himself, as on the other supposition, 
in that he formally doubts of, and even argues 
against, that which he calls it scepticism to doubt 
of. And, thirdly, which is as bad as any of the 
rest, he doubts formally of a point which is not 
capable of being doubted of, viz. the simple exist- 
ence of the visible world. To all which, lastly, I 
may, and also must, add this, that this second sup- 
position is something more than an //, it being evi- 
dently the case in fact, that his whole discourse in 
this place is only of the existence simple of the 
sensible or visible world; and not a word of its 
extra-existence, on the concession of its existence 
simple, is so much as mentioned or implied. 


I doubt not but on sight of the title page many 
of my readers will judge, and be ready to say, sure- 
ly the whole world is full of arguments against so 
strange an assertion, as that there is no external 
world. And perhaps, in this place, some may 
wonder that I end here with the mention of so few 
objections : but let such as these try to add to their 
number; they may possibly find it more difficult 
than they imagine. 

In the mean time I expect to be understood 
by some, when I ask their pardon for the trouble 
I have given them, in thus seriously considering 
so many trifling objections: objections which for 
the most part have been lame on both their legs, 
the language of prejudice only, and having scarce 
so much as an appearance to introduce them. But 
indeed I thought I could do no less, considering 
the dispositions of far the greatest part of those 
whom I have conversed with; who will be so far 
from blaming me on this account, that they will 
be ready, even at this time, to take part with these 
objections. Even such as these I would please, 
if possible ; but being too sure of the event, I have 
nothing left to do, but to acquit myself, by cutting 
off all occasion of offence which might be taken 
at my leaving unmentioned, or unanswered, any 
objection which I have heard, or found, or which 
may reasonably be judged I ought to have found: 
And in this respect I profess I have done my best, 
which, I think, is all that can be expected of me. 


The Conclusion of the Whole. 

Of the use and consequences of the foregoing 

Having demonstrated, as I think, my point 
prefixed in the title page, viz. the utter impossibil- 
ity of an external world; and supposing also that 
this is here granted me by my reader; he has a 
right to demand, of what use and consequence is 
all this to men, or to the moral world. 

Now in order to return as plain and distinct 
an answer as I can, and as can well be expected 
from me in this place, to this question, I would 
chuse to split it into two, making the words use 
and consequence to stand for two different things: 
and I shall begin with the last, viz. the conse- 
quences of this position, no external world. To 
the question concerning which I have these two 
things to answer. 

First, I know not why my reader should not 
take my word, (I mean till he himself has made 
inquiry,) when I assure him that the consequences 
of this position are exceeding many in number. If 
this will pass, I again assure him, that I have 
found by more than a ten years experience, or ap- 
plication of it to divers purposes, that this is one 
of the most fruitful principles that I have ever met 


with, even of general and universal influence in 
the field of knowledge : so that, if it be true, as is 
here supposed, it will open the way to ten thou- 
sand other truths, and also discover as many things 
to be errors, which have hitherto passed for true. 
But this. 

Secondly, may in some measure appear to my 
attentive reader, even before he has made inquiry, 
and though he makes some scruple of believing 
me on my word : for he cannot but have taken no- 
tice, that all language not only supposes, but is 
almost wholly built on the supposition of, an ex- 
ternal world. With this is leavened all our com- 
mon discourse, and almost every thing that is found 
in the writings of philosophers: so that with half 
an eye it must needs be seen, that were a man to 
call all his former thoughts and opinions, all he 
has read in books, or heard in conversation, to an 
examination or review, in the light of this position, 
he would find a mighty work upon his hands, in 
correcting only former errors, setting aside the pos- 
itive part of deducing truths in their room. 

This, I think, is all that can be said in general, 
in answer to the question concerning the conse- 
quences of this position: and I believe my reasons 
will be judged to be sufficient for not entering into 
the particular deduction of these consequences: as 
first, that this would be all over digression in this 
place: and secondly, such a digression as would 
swell the volume to more than ten times its present 


size: but chiefly, thirdly, for that I know myself 
to be unqualified for so great a work, which is no 
less than the compiling a new system, at least of 
general knowledge. Perhaps the little which I 
have here supplied may move some more compre- 
hensive genius to begin where I conclude, and 
build something very considerable on the founda- 
tion which is here laid. But I must be allowed to 
be a proper judge even in my own case, when I 
profess that I am far from being equal to so vast 
an undertaking. However, secondly, I will add 
a word or two concerning the use of the foregoing 
treatise: by this, as distinct from the former head, 
I would be understood to mean, 

1. The subject matters with regard to which 
it may be of use. 

2. Its particular usefulness with regard to 

3. The proper manner after which it should 
be used. 

4th and lastly, the particular use and advan- 
tage which I myself propose by it. 

First, as to the subject matter, it may possibly 
be asked, whether every thing must pass for false 
which does not square with this hypothesis, sup- 
posing it to be true? Or, whether because it is 
true, that there is no external world, we must there- 
fore use this language in discourse, or writing on 
ev^ry kind of subject? To this I answer. 


I. That I have in good measure prevented 
this inquiry in my second answer to the second ob- 
jection, Part II. where I have shewn that we are 
at liberty, and also in some measure, obliged to 
use the common language of the world, notwith- 
standing that it proceeds almost wholly on the sup- 
position of an external world: for, first, language 
is a creature of God, and therefore good, viz. for 
use, notwithstanding this essential vanity which be- 
longs to it. By this God spake the world into be- 
ing when he said, Let there be light, let there be 
a firmament, a sun, moon, and stars, &c. and they 
were : all these things were made in the beginning, 
even in the word, and wisdom, and will of God; 
and therefore in him they are true, even externally 
true, according to the language by which they were 
willed into being, though in themselves they carry 
an impossibility of so existing. But this does not 
justify the goodness of this language with regard 
to us; or rather, justify us sinners in the use of 
this language, without reflecting, secondly, that we 
are redeemed or recreated by the same Word of 
God, who has taken on himself the iniquity of all 
things; who, as one of us, has used this common 
language, and even bore it with him on his cross; 
who, by his Spirit in his apostles, has spoken all 
the languages of the world, making thereby ev- 
ery tongue his own, and who, lastly, in a word, 
has pronounced every thing to be clean to those 
who believe. I answer therefore, 


2. That there are certain subjects which re- 
quire the use of this common language; and on 
which, to speak in the language of this hypothesis, 
would be both ridiculous and unjust; unjust to 
the will, and to the word, of God, who has made 
and sanctified common language to our use, and 
consequently to the obligation of our christian lib- 
erty; and ridiculous, in that on several subjects of 
discourse the use of any other than the common 
ways of expression would be altogether vain, non- 
sensical and absurd. I might easily give a thou- 
sand instances of the truth of this ; but it were pity 
to prevent the many witlings of the present age, 
who by this would lose their whole field of knowl- 
edge, with relation to this subject, and would have 
nothing left whereby to ridicule what they are in- 
capable of understanding. I leave it therefore, to 
pamphleteers, doggrel rhimers, and comedians, to 
expose the language of this treatise, by applying 
it to improper subjects: for since the only end of 
this kind of wit is not so much as pretended to be 
truth, but only laughter and diversion, I am content 
to be the subject, and also to laugh for company, as 
having no pretence to the moving of one smile by 
any thing I have here said. Allowing therefore 
all due advantage to little wits of all sorts and sizes, 
I answer, 

3. Thirdly, that whenever we are, or pretend 
to be, serious, I would recommend the language of 
this discourse to be used only on subjects the most 


general, simple, or universal, I do not say, in phil- 
osophy only in general, or in this or that particular 
branch of it; for I profess to understand but very 
little of either, as words and ideas have been usu- 
ally linked together. I say therefore only, as before, 
the most simple, general or universal subjects ; sub- 
jects wherein the question is strictly about truth, 
particularly such wherein the question supposed 
receives any alteration from the supposition or 
denial of an external world. 

Well, you will say, but then it seems it has but 
little to do with religion, which is a subject best 
understood or treated of in the common ways of 
speaking: by this I am led in the 

Second place, to consider the particular use- 
fulness of this position or hypothesis with regard 
to religion. Accordingly I make answer; 

First, It has been often my fortune, and may 
be again, to have this question put to me by such 
as have not been able to comprehend the reasons by 
which I justify my point of no external world; 
which, by a very natural progress, has given them 
a mighty zeal against the conclusion. In this case, 
their only refuge to avoid an utter silence, has been 
to urge this question about its usefulness as to re- 
ligion. The pretence of this is, that religion is 
their only care, or the end of ail their inquiries; 
so that if it does not immediately appear that this 
hypothesis tends to the promotion of religion, they 


are fairly excused from believing, or so much as 
attending to it. 

But now to such as these, surely nothing can 
be easier than to return a sufficient answer. But I 
think the best, in this case, is to make none at all. 
For first, it is evident that the end or drift of this 
question is not to urge any thing against the truth 
of my conclusion, but only to excuse its authors 
from so much as inquiring into it. But this cer- 
tainly is a point I can never be supposed to contend 
against, whilst I am suffered to live out of bedlam. 
And therefore since this is all that is demanded by 
this question, it must needs be very impertinent to 
go about to answer it any otherwise than by saying, 
Sir, you have free leave to think of what subjects 
you please ; especially having chosen the better part 
already, viz. religion, and nothing else, to employ 
your meditations on, &c. But, secondly, it happens 
well enough for the ends of my discourse at present, 
that my reader is here supposed to have inquired 
already into the truth of my conclusion, and also 
to have discovered it to be true. 

And this gives the question concerning its use- 
fulness as to religion, a very different turn and 
sense from what it had before. For now though 
it may be the effect of curiosity only, yet it very 
probably may be the effect of a serious desire of 
farther knowledge, and of a true regard for re- 
ligion, and therefore ought to be so reputed. 
Whereas the same, as before proceeding, is even 


designed as a bar to knowledge, and is plainly no 
other than a religious disguise. But whatever be 
the true cause or principle of this last, I must needs 
acknowledge its right to an answer. Accordingly 
I affirm, 

Secondly, that I consider the present treatise, 
as a matter of no little use, or good consequence, 
with regard to religion; that I have found the 
truth of this by a long or very considerable experi- 
ence; and in a word, that (be it taken how it will 
by certain vain pretenders) I will be bold to pre- 
tend, even in my own behalf, such a real, and even 
exclusive, regard for religion, that I would never 
have troubled an unwilling world with this dis- 
course, (notwithstanding the infinite use which I 
conceive it to be of with respect to simple or uni- 
versal truth,) had it not been for its particular 
usefulness with respect to religion; and conse- 
quently for the benefit of those few who I expect 
will find the truth of what I here affirm. 

I am sensible this will pass for very slender 
authority with some, and perhaps too for an objec- 
tion with others; unless for their satisfaction I 
produce the points concerning which I affirm this 
discourse to be of use. But I have proved my 
point already, viz. all that is in my title page, and 
I shall prove no more, till I am aware of the suc- 
cess of this, or hear from my reader himself, what 
farther demands he may have upon me. Never- 
theless, that I may avoid the imputation of having 


passed over but the name of an objection, without 
an answer, I will go out of the track of my in- 
tended method so far, as to charge myself with the 
debt of one instance of this sort; and that is, the 
point of the real presence of Christ's body in the 
eucharist, on which the papists have grafted the 
doctrine of transubstantiation. 

Now nothing, I think, can be more evident, 
than that both the sound and explication of this 
important doctrine are founded altogether on the 
supposition of external matter; so that if this be 
removed, there is not any thing left, whereon to 
build so much as the appearance of a question. 

For if after this it be inquired whether the 
substance of the bread in this sacrament be not 
changed into the substance of the body of Christ, 
the accidents or sensible appearances remaining as 
before ; or suppose this should be affirmed to be the 
fact, or at least possible, it may indeed be shewn 
to be untrue or impossible, on the supposition of an 
external world, from certain consequential absurdi- 
ties which attend it; but to remove an external 
world, is to prick it in its punctum saliens, or 
quench its very vital flame. For if there is no 
external matter, the very distinction is lost between 
the substance and accidents, or sensible species of 
bodies, and these last will become the sole essence 
of material objects. So that if these are supposed 
to remain as before, there is no possible room for 
the supposal of any change, in that the thing sup- 


posed to be changed is here shewn to be nothing 
at all. 

I have chosen to instance in this, rather than 
any other point of divinity or religion, because this 
of transubstantiation is one of the most important 
doctrines of the Roman church; which church at 
the same time happens to hold the insufficiency of 
the scriptures. Now as these two opinions happen 
to concur in the same persons, it may possibly prove 
an umbrage to certain weak and tender spirits, as 
if my affirming only without proof, that the pres- 
ent treatise, is of such mighty use, with regard to 
religion, were an intrenchment on the sufficiency 
of the gospel revelation, and consequently an ap- 
proach towards the error of popery. This is the 
objection hinted at before, viz. the great and 
mighty objection, for the sake of which I have 
departed from my method, and broken my resolu- 
tion. But it is high time however now to return 
and proceed. 

The third thing which I proposed to speak 
to, is the proper manner after which I would de- 
sire this treatise to be made use of. And here 

Let the first thing be, to read it thoroughly 
and attentively. It is not so long but it may be 
read more than once without any very consider- 
able expence of time. However, let it so be read 
as to be perfectly understood to be either true or 
false. If false, I would desire my reader to give 
me notice of the discovery, that I may discharge 


myself of the guilt of having published a falshood 
in so confident a manner; and also such a falshood 
as bids open defiance to so considerable part of 
whatsoever men have hitherto pretended to know. 
This I think is a fair request. But my reader is 
here supposed to understand it in another light, or 
to look upon it to be true. 

If so, I must nevertheless desire him to employ 
all his skill or attention for some time to make it as 
familiar as possible to his understanding. If he 
fails in this he will find his assent slide from him 
he knows not how; and he will come* in a little 
time to an effectual disbelief of it, whilst he con- 
tinues to believe it. This is the manner of men, 
with respect to truths, either very simple, or pecu- 
liarly religious; there lying an equal prejudice or 
opposition of sense against both these kinds of 
truths. This, by the way, is some sort of argument 
that there is a nearer affinity between these two 
kinds of truth than is commonly imagined; but I 
am content in this place to suppose them very dif- 
ferent. And be they as different as they will, yet 
sure I am, that the subject of this treatise is of the 
number of those which make the least impression, 
even after they are assented to; or against which 
the strongest prejudices are found to lie. For noth- 
ing can be more evident to the first or natural 
apprehensions of men, than that even the sensible 
or visible world is external. And I believe I shall 
find enough of this from my experience with other 


persons, to make it needless to attest the truth of it 
upon my own. If so, and if it be true notwith- 
standing that there is no external world, I must 
again desire my reader to use his utmost diligence 
and attention to render this truth as sensible to him- 
self as possible; which he will find to be done only 
by a very frequent meditation on, or exercise of 
himself in it. And here, (if I may for decency 
sake be allowed to press this matter any farther,) 
I would advise him. 

First, to exercise himself for a little time in 
writing on, or rather against, it. Let him try to 
add to the objections which I have already con- 
sidered, or respond afresh to the answers which I 
have given to them; and perhaps his surprise to 
find the little effect of this experiment, may add 
some grains to the firmness of his assent. 

After this it would confirm him not a little to 
make the same experiment in discourse with others, 
whether learned or unlearned matters not much, 
if I have rightly observed; unless it be that the 
learned in this case, usually make the least pertin- 
ent objections. This method will in some measure 
engage even self love on the side of truth, which 
will mightily help to overbear the force of common 
prejudice against it. 

But lastly, if after all this endeavour he yet 
find it difficult (as I believe he certainly will) to 
keep the edge of his attention fixed, so as not to 
think it still more evident that the visible world is, 


than that it is not external, let him practise with 
himself an easy, but a very useful, art, which is to 
use himself to meditate on this subject with either 
his eye or imagination fixed on a looking-glass. 
This, he may remember, was one of the instances 
given (Part I. Chap. I. Sect. I.) to shew, that the 
seeming externeity of a visible object is no argu- 
ment of its real externeity: and it has since ap- 
peared that all visible objects are equally external ; 
or that that which is usually called the visible 
world, is indeed no more external than what is 
usually called the reflection or image of it in a 
looking glass. Nevertheless it is much easier to 
apprehend or believe this, with respect to objects 
seen in a glass, than to such as are seen out of a 
glass ; and it is only my reader's ease that I am at 
this time consulting. 

Now by these and such like means, I suppose, 
even my Aristotelian reader (who by his studies 
has been long unqualified to receive or apprehend 
pure unbodied truths) will become master of this 
subject, as simple as it is, or understand it with the 
same, or some degree of the same, ease or feeling, 
wherewith he usually understands ideas that are 
more complex. And if so, he is prepared for all 
the ends and uses of it. The chief of which is this, 

Secondly, to carry it about with him, and use 
it as one would do a key, or mirror, or almost any 
other kind of mechanical or useful instrument. To 
carry, I say, not the body of the present treatise, or 


SO much as one argument of it, in his memory, but 
only the conclusion, viz. no external world, which 
is just what is in the inscription or title page. 

With this, as with a key, he will find an easy 
solution of almost all the general questions which 
he has been used to account very difficult, or per- 
haps indissoluble. 

And as a mirror, held, as it were, in his hand 
before the writings of others, it will discover to 
him many errors, where before he little expected 
to find them; besides that it will open to him a 
new scene of truths, which have not hitherto been 
so much as inquired after. 

In a word, let him read and think with this 
one proposition always present in his mind, and I 
am persuaded he will need no assistance of mine 
to make it appear to him, that it is of the greatest 
use and consequence in the inquiry after truth. 

And now I have nothing to add, but a word 
or two concerning the particular use or advantage, 
which I myself propose from having written this 
discourse. And that is, 

First, the probability by this means, of having 
the truth of it thoroughly examined: which is rare- 
ly done to any purpose in discourse, and indeed 
in any private way; besides that, I would consult 
the common benefit as well as my own. 

Secondly, and lastly, that by this means I have 
freed myself from many difficulties; in case I 
should live to appear in public on any subject. 


which is either a consequence of this, or any way 
depends on, or interferes with it."* I speak this 
from an experience very often repeated. And this, 
at last, has reduced me to this necessity, either 
never to attempt to write on any but the most ordin- 
ary and popular subjects, (which is a work I have 
too good reason to leave to others,) or resolve in 
the first place to set heartily about this, and estab- 
lish it once for all; as I hope I have here done. 

If so, I have no more to do for the time to 
come, but only to refer to what I have here written 
and published: which is a liberty I may possibly 
reap the advantage of in discourse on some other 
subject: but which I shall be sure to use, and make 
the most of, in case this should be replied to by any 
partial, unfair, or scoffing adversary. 




» (p. 6) Compare "Principles of Human Knowledge" Sec. 3- 
"To me it is . . . evident that the various sensations, or ideas im- 
printed on the sense, however blended or combined together (that is, 
whatever objects they compose), cannot exist otherwise than in a mind 
perceiving them." 

^ (P- 9) Collier conceives of God as will, or power, which has 
brought into existence all created things. He accepts this doctrine on 
Scriptural authority without proof, for, he says, "We are told, that 
God made heaven and earth, or the whole material world — and for 
as much as it is the word of God, it may well pass, with us christians, 
for an unquestionable axiom." (Specimen of True Philosophy, p. 115 
of the Parr edition). Des Cartes and Berkeley regard knowledge of 
God as the "certitude and truth of all science" ("Meditations" V., p. 83 
of the Open Court edition), but they present proof for His existence 
and the knowledge of it. 

3 (p. lo) This objection was indeed later brought forward by 
one of Collier's correspondents, Mr. Shepherd. (Benson's "Memoirs" 
pp. 48-49). 

4 (p. II ) Malebranche opposes this conception in the "Recherche 
de la Verite," Livre "i^^, znde Partie, Chap. HI. 

5 (p. 12) Thus the natural world of every person exists in his 
mind alone, and between the natural worlds of individual minds exists 
the relation of similitude, not of numerical identity. See Pt. H, Chap. 
X, Obj. I. Answer. 

6 (p. 13) Cf. Collier's letter to Dr. Clarke (Benson's "Memoirs," 
p. 36), Berkeley uses practically this same division of the subject, since 
in the "New Theory of Vision" he grants, for the sake of argument, 
the external existence of tangible objects, while in the "Principles" he 
denies the external existence of all matter. 

7 (p. 16) Cf. Collier's letter to Dr. Low (Benson's "Memoirs," p. 

8 (p. 17) Cf. Malebranche, "Recherche de la Verit6," £claircisse- 
ment to Livre L, Chap. X. 

9 (p. 17) Cf. Collier's first letter to Solomon Low, (Benson's 
"Memoirs," pp. 25-28). 

»o (p. 20) Cf. Berkeley's "Principles," Sees. 18, 33, 41 ; Third 

* Notes 15, 19 (in part), 21, 27, 28, 39, 59 and 62 have been 
added by Miss Calkins; Notes 29, 46 and 50 by Dr. Rand. 


"Dialogue between Hylas and Philonous," Open Court edition, pp. 97 
ff. ; Des Cartes, "Meditations" VI., Open Court edition, p. 88. 

" (p. 22) The "several parts" of the "much celebrated writings" 
are as follows: 

Des Cartes "Meditations" II, III, VI ; "Principles of Philosophy," 
Part I, Props. IV, LXVI, LXVII, LXVIII, LXX, Part II, Props. I, IV. 

Malebranche's "Recherche de la Verite," Livre I, Chap. 10. 

"An Essay Towards the Theory of the Ideal or Intelligible 
World," by John Norris, Rector of Bemerton, near Sarum. 2 vols. 
London, 1701 and 1704. Vol. II, pp. 238 seq. 

12 (p. 22) Cf. Des Cartes "Meditations," VI, Open Court edition, 
p. loi, and "Principles," Part IV, Prop. CXCVI. 

'3 (p. 23) I have not been able to trace this quotation. 

14 (p. 23) Cf. Des Cartes, "Principles," Part II, Props. I-IV. 

'S (p. 23) On the relation of accidents to substance, cf. Aristotle, 
Analytica Post I. c. IV; and Thomas Aquinas, "Summa Theologica," 
I. II., Qu. 7, Art. I, Concl. ad 2: aliquid dicitur accidens — quia inest 
ei, sicut album dicitur accidens Socratis. 

16 (p. 24) Des Cartes uses this same instance of the uncertainty 
of the evidences of the senses in "Meditations," I, and in "Principles," 
Part I, Prop. IV. 

17 (p. 25) Cf. Low's objection and Collier's answer, Benson's 
Memoirs," p. 24. 

'8 (p. 28) With the teaching of these paragraphs, cf. Collier's 
first letter to Solomon Low, Benson's "Memoirs," pp. 21-24. 

19 (p. 32) The first formal statement of the principle of contra- 
diction is that of Aristotle. Cf. Metaphysics III (r) 3, 1005 b; 
rh -yhp a,iiTb S,fw, inrdpxeiv re Kal /xi) inrdpxfiv dd^varov rwt airrQi Kal Kard 
r6 ainb. (Cf. also, IX (I.) 1057a, 34; X, (K) 1062,3, 22), Cf. Nor- 
ris's use of this principle {op. cit., I, chap. IV, p. 195) where he quotes 
from Suarez, in his proof that sense can not assure us of the existence 
of an external world. 

20 (p. 36) Cf. Berkeley, "Principles," 3-7, 22-25; "Dialogues," 
I, Open Court ed., pp. 11-12: "sensible things are those only which are 
immedately perceived by sense." 

^' (P- 37) Collier, who plainly reads Aristotle second-hand, here 
credits him with the theory of sensible emanations which he never 
held. (Cf. Psychology, II, 7, 418 b: rb cfxhs . . . oiS^ diroppor/ffdi/MTOi 
oWev^s) "light is not — emanation of any body"). This doctrine, that 
perception is mediated by small particles given off from the surface 
of a body, dates back to Empedokles and Demokritos. Cf. J. I. Beare, 
Greek Theories of Elementary Cognition (Oxford, 1906). 


Collier's contrast between the active and the passive intellect is equally 

^^ (P- 39) Cf. Malebranche, "Recherche de la Vcrite" Livre 3n>e 
2nde Partie, Chap. VI, "Que nous voyons toutes choses en Dieu," and 
Norris, "Theory of the Ideal World" : Vol. II, p. 441. 

23 (p. 40) See Part II, chap. IV, Arg. IV and chap. IX, Arg. 
IX for further discussion of this point. 

24 (p. 40) Franciscus Suarez, (1548-1617), a Jesuit theologian 
and philosopher of Granada, who made many original contributions to 
scholastic philosophy. He was a follower of Thomas Aquinas, and 
the author of "Disputatio Metaphysicae," (Paris 1619). It was prob- 
ably this book with which Collier was familiar, for Norris refers to it: 
"Theory of the Ideal or Intelligible World," Vol. I, chap. IV, pp. 195, 
205, etc. The British Museum Catalogue gives the book as published 
at Moguntiae in 1605. 

25 (p. 40) Christopher Scheibler is the author of "Opus Meta- 
physicum", Greszen, 1617. The British Museum Catalogue gives the 
full title as "Opus Metaphysicum, duobus libris universum hujus 
scientiae systema comprehendens." Marpurgi, 1637. 

26 (p. 40) The Scottish philosopher, Robert Baron, who was pro- 
fessor of Divinity in Marischal College, Aberdeen. His "Metaphysica 
generalis" was published in London at some time between 1657 and 1661. 
The British Museum contains three copies of this book. 

27 (p. 41) Actus (iv^pyeia) entitativus, "essential reality" (con- 
trasted with potentia {56vafus) pura, "pure potentiality." The distinc- 
tion is first made by Aristotle and is perpetuated by the Schoolmen. 
Cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book VIII. (O); Thomas Aquinas, Summa 
Theolog'tca, I.I., Qu. 41, Art. 4, Concl. ad 2. To Aristotle, verbally 
followed by the Schoolmen, matter is mere potentiality. 

28 (p. 42) This appears to refer to the doctrine of St. Thomas: 
Angels, though created, are immaterial beings and therefore, like God, 
they know corporeal things without being affected by them (though 
God alone knows through his own essence). Compare Summa TheoL, 
I, 14, v., Concl. ; also I., 57, I. concl. Sicut Deus per suam essentiam 
materialia cognoscit, ita angeli ea cognoscunt per hos quod sunt in eis 
per suas intelligibiles species. Human beings, on the other hand, in 
whom mind is united with body, know material things in part through 
the action of the external objects on the senses. Compare Summa 
TheoL, I. I., Qu. 84, Art. 4, Concl. 

29 (p. 42) The reference probably is to Plato's doctrine that sensi- 
ble reality is object of opinion, or belief, not of knowledge. Cf. Repub- 
lic, V, 477 seq., VI, 509 seq.\ and Timaios, 29. 


30 (p. 45) Cf. Berkelej's "Principles," Section 54. 

31 (p. 46) It seems incredible that Collier should not cite Berke- 
ley at this point, were he familiar with the "Essay" or with the 

3^ (p. 47) Part I, chap. I, Section II, IV, V, and VI. 

33 (p. 49) This objection was brought forward later by Solomon 
Low. Cf. Collier's answer, Benson's "Memoirs," pp. 28-30. 

34 (p. 50) "He must have a very Metaphysical Sense that shall 
feel Existence, but not a very Metaphysical Understanding that shall 
think he does. For to feel that a thing Exists, is the same as to feel a 

^5 (p. 51) This distinction between the objects of sense and of 
touch is emphasized by Berkeley, whose "Theory of Vision" is written 
in part to "consider the difference there is betwixt the ideas of Sight 
and Touch." "Essay towards a New Theory of Vision," Section I. 

36 (p. 52) "It cannot be doubted that every perception we have 
comes to us from some object different from our mind ; for it is not 
in our power to cause ourselves to experience one perception rather 
than another — ... It may, indeed, be matter of inquiry whether that 
object be God, or something different from God; but because we 
perceive, or rather, stimulated by sense, clearly and distinctly appre- 
hend, certain matter extended in length, breadth, and thickness. . . . 
God would, without question, deserve to be regarded as a deceiver, if he 
directly and of himself presented to our mind the idea of this extended 
matter, or merely caused it to be presented to us by some object which 
possessed neither extension, figure, nor motion. For we clearly con- 
ceive this matter as entirely distinct from God, and from ourselves, 
or our mind ; and appear even clearly to discern that the idea of it is 
formed in us on occasion of objects existing out of our minds, to which 
it is in every respect similar. But since God cannot deceive us, for 
this is repugnant to his nature, . . . we must unhesitatingly conclude 
that there exists a certain object extended in length, breadth, and thick- 
ness, and possessing all those properties which we clearly apprehended to 
belong to what is extended. And this extended substance is what we 
call body or matter." "Principles", Part II, Prop. I. Cf. also "Prin- 
ciples", Part. I, Props. XXIX, XXX, XLII, and "Meditations" IV and 
VI. (Open Court ed. p. 104). 

37 (p. 52) In Part II, chapter X, Collier refers to this transla- 
tion of Malebranche as "Search's Illustr. Taylor's Translation." This 
reference must be to the translation of "La Recherche de la Verite" 
published in 1694 by Thomas Taylor, M. A. of Magdalen College, 
Oxford. A copy is in the British Museum. The full title is; "Father 


Malebranche's treatise concerning the Search after Truth. Trans- 
lated by T. Taylor." 1694. This reference to the "Recherche" seems 
to be to the £claircissement of Livre i, chap. 10: "II est done absolu- 
ment necessaire, pour s'assurer positivement de I'existence des corps 
de dehors, de connoitre Dieu qui nous en donne le sentiment et de 
scavoir qu'etant infiniment parfait il ne peut nous tromper." 

38 (p. 52) " 'Tis true indeed upon the appearances of Bodies, and 
those regular and uniform Sensations which accompany those Appear- 
ances, I find myself Naturally deterrnin'd to think that they Exist. But 
before I can rationally conclude that they do so, or by a rtilex act of 
my mind approve of that Natural Judgment, some other Considerations 
must intervene, since neither my Sensation, nor my Judgment upon 
that Sensation is of itself any direct Argument for it. And therefore 

I cannot but think M. Descartes was much in the right, . . . when he 
suspended the Certainty, at least of Sensible things, upon the Existence 
of God. . . . And indeed those Considerations which are taken from 
the Truth and Goodness of the excellent and most perfect Author of 
our Natures, who there is no reason to suspect, would give us Senses 
to abuse and deceive us in the due and Natural use of them, are 
Sufficient to satisfie all sober and reasonable Understandings of the 
real Existence of Bodies." 

^' (P- 54) See Hume's criticism of this argument, "Inquiry," 
Sec. XII, Part I. (Open Court ed. p. 163): "To have recourse to the 
veracity of the Supreme Being, in order to prove the veracity of our 
senses, is surely making a very unexpected circuit. If his veracity were 
at all concerned in this matter, our senses would be entirely infallible." 

40 (p. 54) Cf. Des Cartes, "Principles," Part I. Prop. LIII, LIV, 
LXIII, LXVI, LXVIII, LXIX, and Part II, Prop. I and "Meditations" 

II and VI. 

**' (P- 55 ) Collier does not discuss in any detail the point which 
Berkeley emphasizes, i. e. that we know extension by means of the 
senses, just as much as we know light, heat, and colour. See Berkeley's 
"Principles," Sec. 9, 10, 11. 

^' (P- 55) Cf, the letter to Solomon Low, Benson's "Memoirs," p. 

43 (p. 56) Norris admits that an external world is unknowable, 
but does not conclude that therefore it cannot exist. "Theory of the 
Ideal or Intelligible World," Vol. I, p. 205 and Vol. II, chap. VI, 
Chap. XII, p. 442. Cf. Berkeley's use of this argument and the follow- 
ing, Principles, 18-20. 

44 (p. 56) The external world is either creature (created) or is 
self-existent, i. e. God himself. The latter doctrine seems to Collier 


untenable, so he holds, without further argument, that the world is a 

45 (p. 56) This point is not, however, later considered. 

*^ (P- 59) "^^ <'^'" formali ... or in actu exercito": really or 
actually existent Formal existence is opposed to merely representative 
existence (existence in thought) ; "practised," or actual, existence is 
opposed to potential existence. 

47 (p. 62) Collier regards as axiomatic the perfect wisdom of 
God. Bericeley argues to God's perfection from the "order — beauty 
and perfection" of nature. Principles 146: Cf. Sec. 30-32, 36. 

48 (p. 63) See Introduction, page xxiv, for comparison of Collier's 
with Kant's antinomies. 

49 (p. 70) See p. 40, VI, of this edition of the "Clavis" for Col- 
lier's first references to this point, and Pt. II, Chap. IX, Arg. IX, for 
further discussion. (References in the Notes, to the "Clavis" are to this 

so (p. 73) The reference is to Part IV, chapter 1 of the Port 
Royal "Logic or Art of Thinking," edited by A. Arnauld and P. 
Nicole, (1662). 

5' (p. 77) Collier's theological orthodoxy is evidenced in his 
ready acceptance of the authority of the word of God, which he says, 
"may well pass, with us Christians, for an unquestionable axiom," 
"Specimen of True Philosophy," Parr edition, p. 115. 

5^ (P- 77) On page 125 of the "Clavis," Collier claims, indeed, 
that he explains by his idealism the apparent contradictions in these 
theological arguments. 

S^ (P' 77) The Socinians were a sect founded in Italy in the 
i6th century by Lelio and Fausto Sozzini. By their denial of the 
divinity of Christ, and by their belief in the moral theory of the 
Atonement and in man's power to attain his own salvation, they were 
the forerunners of the modern Unitarians. 

54 (p. 77) Arianism is the name given to the Christological 
theory of Arius, who denied that Christ is "of the same substance" 
with the Father. The controversy arose through the Alexandrian dis- 
cussion of the Logos in the early fourth century. Arian doctrine was 
revived in England in 1720 by Dr. Samuel Clarke, and Collier himself 
inclined to the Arian theory. See Benson's "Memoirs," pp. 61, 62. 

55 (p. 83) Cf. note 21. Here, and in the arguments which 
follow. Collier evidently follows Malebranche, "Recherche de la Verite," 
Livre 3™^^ 2nde Partie, chap. II. 

56 (p. 87) This argument is directed against the teaching of 


Norris, who, throughout his Essay, represents the external world, as a 
thing entirely apart from God, and yet as produced by him. 

57 (p. 87) Des Cartes, "Meditations" III, Open Court ed. p. 58. 

5^ (P- 95) In Pt. I, pp. 40-41, and Pt. II, Argument IV, Collier 
argues that the matter of the early philosophers must be invisible ; here 
he argues that the conception is utterly meaningless. Berkeley touches 
lightly on these conceptions as already out of date, referring to the 
"so much ridiculed notion of materia prima, to be met with in Aristotle 
and his followers ("Principles" n). In formulating this conception 
of matter, as a vague something or nothing, and as a supporting 
medium of sensible qualities (Clavis p. 23), Collier closely approaches 

59 (p. 96) Cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. IV, (A), c. 2, 1013a, 24. 
Cf. Bk. I. (A), c. 3, 983a, 26. 

60 (p. 97) St. Austin for St. Augustine is a contraction common 
among the Schoolmen. 

^' (P- 97) Porphyry {za-circa 303 A. D.), a follower of 

^^ (P- 97) The reference is to Metaphysics Bk. VI. (Z), c. 3, 
1029a, 20: X^w 5' CXijc f) KaO'' axiT^v fi-fire rl H'fiTf iroabv fj.-fyre 
dWo fXTiSiv Xiyerai oh &pu7Tai t6 6v. Cf. IX. (I), c. 8, 1058, a, 23. See 
also, Berkeley, "Principles," 80, and "Dialogues between Hylas and 
Philonous," II. (Open Court ed. p. 80) : "So matter comes to nothing"; 
and Hegel, "Logik," I, i, Kap. i : "Das reine Sein und das reine 
Nichts ist also dasselbe." 

63 (p. loi) Cf. Berkeley's treatment of this objection in "Prin- 
ciples" 82. 

64 (p. 102) Cf. Collier's "Specimen of True Philosophy." See 
also Introduction, pp. XVII ff. 

^S (p. 102) See p. 12 of the "Clavis" for Collier's first refer- 
ence to this point. Also see Collier's letter to Mr. Shepherd, quoted 
in Benson's "Memoirs," pp. 48 seq. ; and Berkeley's "Dialogues," III, 
Open Court Edition, pp. 119 ff. 

66 (p. 102) See Malebranche, "Recherche de la Verite," 6clair- 
cissement to Livrc I., chap. X (near end) ; "Or dans I'apparence de 
l'£criture sainte, et par les apparences des miracles, nous apprenons 
que Dieu a cree un ciel et une terre — " 

67 (p. 105) See the "Clavis" pp. 108 and 120; also see Berkeley, 
"Principles," 38, 52. 

68 (p. 106) See Note 36. 

69 (p. 107) Norris's "Theory of the Ideal or Intelligible World," 
vol. I, p. 205 ; Vol. II, pp. 320, 493, 563. 


70 (p. 113) See "Clavis" pp. 8, 9. Collier answers this objection 
again in his second letter to Mr. Low, Benson's "Memoirs," pp. 31, 33; 
in the letter to Dr. Clarke, Benson, pp. 36 seq.\ and in the letter to 
Mr. Mist, Benson, pp. 41 seq. 

71 (p. 114) "Clavis," p. io6. 



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